The other day I was walking down the street, when I overheard two young girls who were walking in front of me, talking about boys.
“So do you like Hudson, or Brannan more?”
“Hudson, I think.”
“Really?! I like Brannan so much more.”
Their voices had the upturned lilt of teenage conversation, that affectation that gives any subject matter a buoyancy, and as a result, a vacuous quality. “Ah, children,” I thought to myself, remembering the days of agonizing over boys, feeling pious in in the fact that nowadays, I fill my head with worthwhile notions and solutions to the world’s problems. (Friends episodes, mostly). As I passed them, I glanced over to see them each poring over their cell phones. Flirtatious text messages, I thought. But, exercising my God-given right to know everyone’s business all the time, I lingered a moment, and realized they were actually deciding which Instagram filter to use.
Not only did my superiority complex dissolve on the spot, the newfound sensibility of their exchange ignited my own line of reasoning. Typically, I find Hudson much more flattering, but there are times, when I’m feeling especially bold, that Brannan can be very empowering.
It was a moment or two late, but it came nonetheless; the self awareness, the self-loathing. Not only were these two young girls not actually talking about boys in their class, they were talking about themselves, versions of themselves, more specifically, and my own deep and immediate understanding of their debate made me no better.
While the general awareness that Instagram, amongst other social media outlets have allowed us to present ourselves in half-truth to our friends, peers, and strangers is nothing new, I’m still not convinced it’s an entirely bad thing.
Yes, we live in a time when magazine publications are berated for altering images of women, but we also live in a time when we females are learning to celebrate the fact that makeup makes us feel good, and that we can wear heels and tight skirts for us, and not them, and why shouldn’t this ownership of self-image extend to our online persona?
When I post an Instagram photo, I’m not just partaking in some light narcissism, I’m telling you a story about my life, and just like I would never walk into an interview in sweatpants and no makeup, I wouldn’t put up an ugly photo that my potential employers will inevitably find in the age of cyber-stalking. I do it for them, or for my upcoming high school reunion, or because in my vile, egocentric imagination, all the girls I’ve ever hated spend all day on my Facebook page.
Someday we’ll all be in a blissful, self-realized state, in which we don’t give a damn how we appear online. Some disgustingly perfect people are already there, and those are the ones that use the neo-humblebrag “#nofilter.” But I take comfort in the fact that all you can see is my face, but somehow, you know my world is a warm, 1950s era kitchen. Morning light pours through the eastern window, sun beams interrupted by the steam escaping from an aged percolator, as the smell of strong black coffee seems to emanate from my very visage. My life is sweet and nostalgic and inviting, and I’m effectively reminding you why you like being my friend, even though in reality, my eyes are red and burning because I spilled a bottle of apple cider vinegar moments before I put in a pair of long-since-expired contacts, which I have neglected to replace, what with my crippling unemployment and general lack of well being.
But the latter doesn’t make my mom feel okay. And that’s why I never leave the house without my favorite Instagram filter. Haters to the left.