A few years ago on a warm Summer’s night in Indiana, I walked out of a shop and headlong into the most beautiful sunset I’d seen in years.
Red lacy fingers of light streaked across the darkening sky and as the sun dipped slowly into a gooey golden hue, I took a picture.
And then, to improve on perfection, I added a few filters; cropped out a man, lightened up the background, added a touch more red to the (already stunning) sky, applied a bit of ‘Sunkissed’ effect…and then, once I’d given nature a rather unrealistic-looking makeover, I shared it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
I’m more of a Facebook person and only use Instagram occasionally but for the uninitiated, app-based photo filters allow ordinary people like me, to brighten, darken, sharpen pictures.
And, if you’re insecure (and aren’t we all, just a little?) you can crop off the fat bits, give yourself a golden glow, soften the patchy skin or with some clever effects of blurring, draw attention to what you really want people to see – like a blood-red sunset which never really happened.
Finally, we mere mortals get to do to our photos, what celebrity magazines have been doing to celebs for years – we get to photoshop our lives and experiences. We get to create a glam and gorgeous version of ordinary everyday activities, for others to show their approval of.
No harm in projecting the best version of ourselves, is there?
Or is there?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot and while I’m no theologian, here’s the potential problems for me;
Photoshopping my life is not that far off idolatry – it’s creating a false idol to be ‘worshipped’ with likes, follows and shares.
Photoshopping my life can breed real insecurity in others. Others look on and think wistfully, ‘why isn’t my life like that?
And finally, a photoshopped life, lived through the lens of Social Media can become a twisted form of security. If we’re honest, the motivation for each post is to (ideally) gather as many likes or retweets as possible, but aren’t we (in a weird sort of way) really asking people to affirm us? A ‘like’ equates to me being liked/loved/approved of. If I have a lot of Facebook friends or retweets, that must mean I’m ok? Right?
I can slowly see Social Media changing the way the world works…but I wonder if one day we’ll reap the consequences of a world which gets its affirmation and approval from people who don’t really know, the genuine un-photoshopped version of us?
What are we trying to prove? What are we trying to hide?