We all want to look good on Instagram. And besides the brief schadenfreude it would provide otherwise, we want others to look good, too. After all, real life might be messy, but Instagram doesn’t have to be, so why that messiness seep in at all?
One Instagrammer by the name of Carolyn, who runs the popular @theslowtraveler handle, took this idea to its radical conclusion. Rather than simply editing out imperfections on her images (say, removing a discoloration from her shirtsleeves) she decided to create an entirely fake scenario, place herself in it, and share it as if it were real. In her own words, she sought to “[cross] that line” between touch-up and artifice, and then “work backwards and figure out how far I can reasonably go and still make work that’s both responsible and good.”
She began by purchasing FaceApp, the “social media photo editor.” After allowing the app to do its work, she says of the face looking back at her: “It’s my perfect self.” Her skin is clear, her wrinkles are gone, and she looks ten years younger. Looking back at her original self, she says “the flaws seem far more prominent.”
Upon posting this image, she was surprised to find that nobody mentioned the difference; not even her “own mam!”
Next, for the “event” she would be attending; as we all know, to make it on Instagram you need to be more than just nice to look at—you have to do cool things. So, for her “22nd birthday” (a reference to her false, younger self) she took a day trip to Disney Land. As evidence, she included an image of herself in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, alone. All of it, of course, was “manipulated.”
The point she was trying to make was that while Instagram is liable to slight exaggerations, there is a line—somewhere—where this skewing becomes a perpetration of falsity. For example, she lists her more common edits:
I never read by the window – those windows, beautiful as they are, make my flat freezing cold. Sometimes that coffee cup I’m holding is empty. I suck in my stomach. I rearrange the furniture. I photoshop out dirty marks made by bashing furniture off the walls.
She asks herself: “Is it bad to do those things?”
While Instagram is a positive experience for her personally, she notes this is “not the case for a lot of people.” She suspects this is because it is full of “‘slim, prosperous, happy, extroverted and popular [people'” such as her aforementioned “perfect self.” Now certainly envy is a natural part of life, but insofar as these “prospering” individuals are consciously manipulating their appearance on social media to achieve these effects, it ceases to be so innocent.
Carolyn’s search for the “line” between editing and lying is “ongoing” and she wants your feedback. “Together,” she says, let’s “make Instagram even better.”