When I was in Jr. High, then extent of outward appearance self-awareness consisted of my morning love-hate relationship with the mirror above my sink. I would wake up, stumble to my closet, get dressed, and then desperately try to curling-iron copy Farah Fawcett’s whispy perfection.
I’d take one last look and set out on my day. Momentary encounters in the school bathroom (“momentary” being the operative word – a girl could fear for her life in that bathroom) offered brief reminders, but that’s about it. Some of my friends kept compact mirrors in the purses, but I wouldn’t have been caught dead sneaking a peek. I didn’t want to know. I put my best foot forward at the beginning of the day and hoped for the best. What you didn’t know couldn’t hurt you. Right?
My kids don’t have that out of sight, out of mind luxury. With smart phones in hand, gone are snippets of momentary relief from self-unawareness, here to stay are the ever-present opportunities to know – and to share.
Kids get to know all day, every day, exactly how they look – and looked, since each pic is dated and saved – if not on their phone, on someone else’s camera role or text history. Enter stage left: a new love-hate relationship … with smart phone cameras.
There are so many things to love about cell phones. The videos and pics we’ve recorded of our younger kids offer such fun memories that were hard to capture with the older ones. Clunky video equipment stored on the top shelf of our closet can’t hold a candle to my phone that lets me capture anything at any time. And I love scrolling through photos, like a walk down memory lane, as I sit outside 7-11, the tennis courts, or a school waiting for kids to get in the car. I even caught one of my daughters the other day, looking and remembering – it was good.
But this morning when Facebook, in the friendly way that FB does, offered me something to buy, I stopped. And was conflicted. I didn’t find the item enticing, but I struggled with the message it implies to those who will be enticed by it’s promises.
The ad promoted Facetune, a “portrait photo editor which allows you to achieve magazine style results.”
Facetune is one of many apps available to help even the least-savvy of camera users to be the person they’ve always wanted to be. “Perfect Skin”, “Perfect Smile”, and the “power to reshape” help even a newbie to “achieve results comparable only to what professionals can do” with “strikingly natural results.” “Emphasize your eyes or lips to accentuate the best areas of your face, for beauty that pops out! No one will be able to ignore your deep, penetrating gaze!”
Directly below the Facetune’s claim on their Facebook ad are a before and after pic. The before features a cute teen girl, smiling at the camera. The after shows the same girl, but with a slimmer face, smoothed & perfectly tanned skin (as if her skin needed smoothing), bright eyes, reshaped nose, blinding white teeth and even her hair parted on the other side. The last of which I really don’t understand. Her hair looked fine parted the way it was. Nothing was “wrong” with the before. Was it magazine cover worthy? Not by today’s standards. But the girl in the photo was just that a regular girl in a photo.
What message are we sending to these kids, to us, when we have to airbrush everything to look a certain way. Who is driving this bus? Have we lost sight of the fact that the kid in the picture will leave her home and run into people while she’s out. Will her self-esteem be affected at all? Will she be tempted to wonder if people might notice she looks a teensy bit different than her “magazine-style results”?
We all want to look good. We all want to be confident. But let’s at least call these apps out. Kids (we) live under enough pressure as it is. Do we have ask the question: What happens when the airbrushed selfie doesn’t match the real person?
Recently, I was at an event where I ran into someone I’ve been acquainted with for a couple years via the web. I took a triple-take, wondering if the person standing nearby was the same person I knew through pictures. There was a vague similarity, but I wouldn’t be picking her out of a line-up.
If as adults we struggle, how much more are our kids buying into the hamster-wheel race to “magazine style results”.
Thanks for walking the road with me.