In my previous blog posts I discussed filter bubbles from search engines and websites, and the shift in artistic creators and how our music is being selected for us (filtered) by thousands of young people instead of a few executives. While both of those are types of modern-day filters, I think social media users are also bombarded with a “pressure to be perfect” that stems from personal filters that are as damaging and dangerous as the others. When I say “personal filters” I’m referring to filters in images and the limited information that social media users share. Think about this: how often do you see a friend a picture of themselves on Instagram with a bad hair day, no makeup, and frumpy looking clothes? Or how often does a Facebook post discuss the details of getting dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend? How many tweets do you see commenting about failing a class? It’s extremely difficult to find such posts, but it is easy to scroll through your Facebook feed to see notifications about your friend starting a relationship, friends going to football games, and comments on how wonderful someone’s kids are. And in pictures everyone looks happy or serious with the intention of looking beautiful (or handsome). People are extremely selective in posting pictures and to demonstrate this I created an equation for the qualifications of posting a picture on social media sites (from the user’s perspective):
I look good + my friends are people I’d want to be associated with + I look as good or better than the other people in the photograph + the background is decent = post worthy picture + a filter to cover any potential blemishes and imperfections
Some variation of this equation is used by almost all social media users that post pictures. While some may claim they don’t care about their appearance or what others think about them, I argue that at least some thought will always be given about how impressive they look and what others will think when viewing the image. What does this do to social media users? Do these choices actually affect everyone? I think they do, because the appearance of friends “having their life together” makes others feel like they are insufficient. Have you noticed that Facebook notifies you when your friends start a relationship, but it doesn’t tell you when the relationship ends? Of course, you don’t see relational fights on Facebook (unless a hint about a fight or hurt is mentioned in a post), but you do see the cute couple-y pictures and cute post-worthy things they do for each other. Social media sites have become dwellings of fake perfection that amplify the best things that happen to people while skipping the negative. This setup creates a huge pressure to be perfect. Users feel like they have to put on a figurative mask (or literal with makeup and hairdos and changing clothes) to hide who they really are. It’s easy to hide what you don’t want others to see by filtering how they view you. For example, if you think you look bad in a picture it’s easy to un-tag yourself from the picture so Facebook friends won’t see you in an unflattering way.
I think that for centuries, humans have put on façades to hide behind. While the pressure to be perfect has always been present, due to the filtering of social media and the idea that at any time a picture could be taken of them and be unforgettable (un-erasable with the internet), there seems to be a need to always be on guard with “the mask”. Having a filter creates a standard for other photographs. Once you start using a photograph filter, it’s tough to stop because of the standard you set in that picture.
Filter: this word holds many denotations and connotations. Some filters are necessary and some are excessive. The problem is knowing what is appropriate. Filter bubbles, filtering music by a large amount of people instead of a select few, filters in photographs, and personal filters by only sharing things that appear “good”. These are all examples of filters in our world. They have a huge impact on what we know, what we listen to, and what standards we have for ourselves and others. These are filters we encounter every day, so we need to ask ourselves: how much longer can we fully live seeing only part of the world and of the truth?