Williams enjoys using Instagram to add a creative effect to her photos. Emma Williams/Instagram.
Williams enjoys using Instagram to add a creative effect to her photos. Emma Williams/Instagram.

I am obsessed with Instagram.

Walden, fifth filter from the end, is my personal favorite. A bit retro, gives photos a bluish effect. X-Pro II comes in a close second. Except, if I want a frame, I always choose Nashville. There’s just something about the purple-pink tint and the film frame.

For those of you who are not aware, Instagram is a social network that allows users to add digital filters to their photos and share them instantly. Over 100 million smart phone users have downloaded the app. This comes as no surprise. Afterall, who doesn’t love posting a selfie (taken at an artistic angle, of course) and receiving over 20 likes with minutes? Talk about a boost to the self esteem.

I started using Instagram about a year and a half ago. Since then, my Facebook has become polluted with “Instagrammed” photos. Some of dishes at restaurants that look like they belong in a magazine. Some of beautiful landscapes or blooming flowers I see across campus. Most, however, are of me- sometimes alone, sometimes with others.

I’m not the only one. I scroll through my News Feed and see so many Instagram photos. If not Instagram, it’s Aviary, or ribbet.com, or similar editing softwares.

For the past year and a half, I haven’t really thought about the fact that the majority of my Facebook photos have had their lighting settings tweaked, their backgrounds softened, and filters applied. These photos just show my love on Instagram.

I love Instagram because I feel it adds unique, artistic touches to my photos.

But I really love Instagram because I am able to hide behind the filters. These filters that can turn my “flaws” to “flawless” with a few taps on the screen.

Also, let me add, I am completely consumed by social media. The minute I get up to walk out of a classroom, I robotically grab my iPhone out of the right pocket in my backpack and start scrolling through my News Feed. I stumble upon picture after picture of other girls, some classmates, some past co-workers, others from my old dance studio. They are all so photogenic, I just don’t understand it.

However, how many of these girls are truly photogenic? How many, just like me, hide behind Instagram filters? How many have discovered websites such as Ribbet, with touch up functions, allowing users to darken mascara, remove blemishes, or adjust skin tone?

I have struggled with body image and eating disorders my whole life. I have done a lot of research and a lot of reflecting and I oftentimes go off about the media’s strong negative influence on self-image.

However, lately, I have started to feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I complain about the media and its manipulation of photographs. How disgusting, how unfair, and how demeaning. But, by posting my digitally altered photos, I am just as offensive.

Wanting to edit photos to make them more attractive does not make a person good or bad, self-absorbed or insecure. Honestly, this is just a sign of the times and the expectations we are forced to face every day.

We live in a world that glorifies appearance so much that it has become okay to surgically and digitally change the way we look. And it’s not just the millennial generation. Think about professional photographers, spending hours editing photos of newborns. It’s a societal belief that it is better to look “good” instead of looking natural.

I am starting to realize it’s not just the magazines or reality TV shows anymore. I am trying to be more conscious of the effects my photos have because, through personal experiences, I know the power social media has over mental health. And that power is scary. But the thing is, we have the choice to hold ourselves accountable and be personally responsible. Stop manipulating photos. Stop hiding behind filters and effects. Stop creating those unattainable beauty standards we always blame the mass media for instilling.

The point of this is not to make anyone feel as if they have contributed to the insecurities of others. Because that is not the case. These psychological struggles are far more complicated than being a result of an “Instagrammed” photo. But we do have power.

Let’s start redefining the qualities of a good picture. Let’s embrace the shiny foreheads, this oil is oftentimes caused by stress, so it’s a sign of how hard you are working to succeed in your classes. Ignore the bags under your eyes, it is beautiful that you stayed up late the night before enjoying time on Skype with your family at home. Your skin is pale? No problem, thank you for protecting it.

There’s that famous quote from Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Well, here is our chance. Let’s not miss it.


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