Filters, social media, our kids and ourselves

Rebecca Stanisic

A few years ago, I mostly stopped using filters on my Instagram photos and stories. I had been using ones that weren’t intentionally changing the way I looked - or at least, I wasn’t trying too hard for that. I was selecting ones that bettered my lighting or made me look less tired.

Okay, so I guess I was searching for ones that changed my appearance a bit.

However, I changed my use of filters because I was noticing that without them, I was hesitating to post.

I noticed the wrinkles along my eyes and neck more. I noticed the unevenness of my skin, a little blotchy at times and redder as I’ve aged. I was being more critical of myself, something that I try not to be and because when I compared my photos to the filters, I second-guessed posting at all.

Woman taking a selfie with her cell phone.

I caught myself quickly and changed that attitude in no time. I don’t want to avoid sharing because of my wrinkles or aging body. I love myself, and this body has been through a lot and deserves kindness.

I rarely talk about my appearance, weight, figure or body in a negative way online. I see aging as a gift - challenging at times, but still a gift.

I joke that I will use lotions and potions (serums and creams) because I dislike dryness and do love a dewy look to my face, and if they can help me look a little fresher, I do enjoy that. I like makeup, and while I have a fairly simple makeup routine, I love makeup looks and recognize it as an art and a skill (at all ages).

The filters were changing the way I felt about myself and fortunately I was able to break free from those expectations, recognize that my 44-year-old skin will not look the same as my 34-year-old self, and that I don’t *need* filters to share a video or photo.

Not everyone is able to ditch the feeling, I recognize that (and admittedly, I still struggle at times). And if it’s hard for those of us who are adults, and have many years of experience online, imagine how tough it is for our kids.

I don’t have the answers to this issue, just the recognition that body image and self-esteem is always a difficult topic for young people. With the rise of social media - and the push to look a certain way - it’s only gotten harder, I think. I see it among people my age too, so it’s not an issue just for our kids.

MediaSmarts has resources that can kick off conversations as a family, or for educators:

“...a 2018 study revealed that critical thinking “with media use [is effective] as a form of protection from the mindsets that lead to eating disorders.”[4] Other studies have found that being able to think critically about techniques that are used to fabricate and make digitally manipulated photos has been found to be associated with positive body image.[5] This critical thinking skill is learned through a media literacy education program, as youth are able to develop their own skepticism and understand how to use it properly in the digital world.”

Source: MediaSmarts - Media Education and Body Image

Read this tip sheet on how to talk to your kids about body image and the media.

“Children are exposed to many unrealistic images of both men’s and women’s bodies through media. TV shows, music videos, ads, movies, video games, and social networks can communicate ideas about what their bodies “should” look like. Techniques for manipulating images – from old-fashioned techniques like airbrushing to modern technologies like filters – even make it possible for media images to go beyond what’s possible in reality.”

Now replace ‘children’ in the above sentence with adults as a reminder for all of us too.

Before your next scroll on Instagram, consider what you are seeing and what is actually reality, and remember to be kind to yourself.

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