This week I’ve been thinking about how people portray themselves to other people a lot. My thought process then going onto social media and how you can get a glimpse of a person’s life through it.
As a person with a condition that is largely invisible, I find it difficult to know how to act in situations. For example, do I ‘pretend that I am not is pain’ and then end up suffering for it later on or do I take things slow or do things in such a way that may be better for my pain and potentially be a ‘burden’ on my family, friends, colleagues, anybody really? It is made especially difficult with expectations of society’s. People look at me and see a young girl, so I must be fit and healthy. By looking at me, you wouldn’t necessarily think, at times, that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with me.
Through media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, this generation seems to be the ‘selfie’ generation. Like most people my age, my phone is full of selfies, most of which I do not post online. Another factor of selfies, or any picture posted, is that they are edited and so many filters are added to them. I think this can be such a good tool, but I also feel it can be damaging. I like to play with editing tools and filters as much as the next person. They are great! You can take a picture and make it black and white, make it look bright, make it look vintage – so many different options. I am all for the creativity that this can induce. You are taking something, and making it ‘better’. This is also encouraging self expression which is so important. Lines begin to be crossed however with the selfie. People can take this picture of themselves and through this medium of ‘self expression’ actually produce an edit of themselves that is the furthest thing from who they really are.
The thing with a selfie or photograph is they are mainly ‘staged’. I take pictures of everything. I take selfies to remember things, to make things a memory, because it is nice, to keep record of my symptoms, to keep record of my journey… everything. I like nothing better than an ‘action shot’, I feel it is more true to life. When picking what photograph to post online, you are choosing a part of your life that you want to show your friend list. This can be something that is true to your life, or can be constructed in such a way to make people think it is your life, or in a way you wish your life to be. All these options are fine. However, I think it is important to remember that everything you see, especially on social media, is not necessarily exactly what the situation is. Here is a picture of me, looking fairly good if I do say so myself.
This is a picture that I would probably post online. I think it looks good. The thing is it is completely fake. I found an app that added filters to photos to try makeup styles and I was playing around with the different options. Then on top of that there is another filter. It has produced this nice photo though. This is the type of photo that it is ‘acceptable’ to post online. Looking at this photo, it looks like I have made an effort, it looks like I have a full face on and I am ready to face the day. Perhaps I could be going out to do something nice. The reality was so much different! Here is what was actually going on at the time.
I was in a lot of pain. I could not move from my bed. I was so sore and frustrated with myself, and with my body, that I had cried. My hair hadn’t been washed in an unmentionable amount of time. The only thing different between the two photographs, other than the filters, was I managed to change position so that I could take a photo that I could use to play on the app with. This was a way for me to distract myself from the pain etc. The first picture would be a choice in what I want people to see. So this got me thinking why? Why is it more acceptable for me to post picture 1? It’s not true to the situation that I was in. It looks nothing like how I was actually looking at that moment in time. Social media, and how you make yourself up in the day, can be so deceiving. I have an invisible illness and here I am making it even more invisible. It is as though I am hiding it. Why? Surely on sites that is for self expression which, in my opinion, is exactly what sites like instagram is for, i should be able to post true pictures. I have fibromyalgia, it is part of me and is shaping/has shaped who I am. Why can I not post a picture showing my true situation?
I am not suddenly “cured” because I’ve posted a picture with makeup on, whether that is using a filter or not. Maybe I am trying to make myself feel better. Maybe I am trying to make an effort for my own self esteem and confidence. Maybe I am pushing myself a little to go through my day in a way that I would like that is not fully dictated my my body or my emotions. The amount of times I have heard, “but you don’t look ill” or “you can’t tell there is anything wrong with you”. I feel like replying that’s good because “that’s the look I’m going for”. Likewise, not every day is going to be a day I can’t move from my bed. However, I just feel that it shouldn’t be an issue if I choose that as a photo to share. Whether it is my own head making that issue or not. It encourages stigma and discrimination
On the whole I can be quite open about my conditions and my struggles. Even through the pictures I post. However I am guilty for being more likely to post a photo that has a filter or posed in some way. Part of the reason I wanted to start blogging was to write about my experiences, my thoughts and my feelings to try and make sense of them myself,or to (hopefully) help another person in knowing that they are not a lone there are other people out there with similar struggles, or fighting their own demons. As a result, I think I have to be open about my own life, especially here… Otherwise, what is the point? I want my blog to be a safe space to tell my story, and for others to share theirs if they choose to. I am just feeling my way through life, the same as everybody else. I do not want to be judged on how I am or how I look in photographs. Personally, I think it’s important to share more of the unfiltered life, especially when it comes to invisible illnesses and mental health awareness. It can help start a conversation, spread awareness and help with issues of discrimination and stigma. However, it is OK to post pictures with filters over them, it is OK to edit those selfies. Likewise, it is OK to keep that photo unedited and unfiltered. If it’s a selfie, it’s going to look good either way, because it is going to have your beautiful self in it. Just remember to be kind. People are, or are not, editing and filtering their photos for a reason. Be happy that a person is showing you part of who they are and their life, or how they want their life to be and be seen. You might only be getting a small glimpse, but somebody has specifically chosen that moment, to share.