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We are all aware of the mass deception behind images in advertisements and media with the use of airbrushing, photoshopping, digital alteration, etc. And while many are outraged at this deceit and manipulation of distorted, “perfected”, and some one’s strange version of idealized images that are feeding disorders and damaging self-worth values, there seems to be a trickle down effect that is now being carried out by the hands of consumers themselves.
Given the advances in technology, one has to wonder if this is a) the effect of manipulated conditioning to join in the self-deception and devaluing of all that is naturally beautiful and perfectly imperfect, b) the product of our acceptance and odd love/hate relationship with it and ourselves, or c) both.
While I recognize these advancements as tools for freedom of expression and creativity, there are some pitfalls to this accessible means of “filtering” and “editing” that unknowingly is mirroring the deceptive hands of big media and the pained parts of ourselves crying out for love.
Some may argue that we are being force-fed the ability to do as advertising firms and corporations do, so as to perhaps lessen the focus on their role in these harmful practices, since now it is easy for you too, to manipulate your own self-image, as you would like to project it. While others may cringe at the strange twist of fate that has us now responding to the law of demand they have created us to desire with the illusions and manipulation, so that we can mimic the same deceptions, without the middle man, and do it to ourselves.
Have we become so conditioned into accepting these “idealizations” and rejecting our beautifully “natural” and “real” authenticity that we now would do this? Think about it.
What am I getting at you ask? Well, simply that fact that the public is now widely adopting the similar practices because of the ease of attainable technologies that are being created in response to a twisted demand. What people feel to be a serious and unhealthy abomination affecting the psyche of young and mature women and men alike, across the globe, is now strangely being implemented on a daily basis to imitate the very thing we feel is damaging to us, albeit, in the name of creativity.
I’ve been contemplating this over the last few months, discussed my observations with a few close to me, and shared how incredulous this is. But the reality is, it has become a reality and I felt a nudge to voice it because I find it to be potentially damaging to all of the invested personal work being implemented in terms of self-love and embrace of your authentic personal frequency and true, luminous beauty that you’ve been doing. And it seems so harmless since it comes under the guise of creative expression, which makes it even more threatening.
I see images that people post and I hear comments from many people about the kinds of photos they post of themselves. Like anything I share, it’s never a blanket statement of everyone, but because it is such a big and growing group, I feel there is something important to take away from the observations and perhaps this may spur an inner dialogue with anyone who reads it. Maybe it reveals some of the ways we might be counter-productively buying in to this mass acceptance of devaluing or false projections, and how it not only may be damaging to yourself, but anyone who you are reflecting to, if in fact being used to hide behind, as opposed to creating “art”, which it is thought to be there for.
What I’m talking about is things like the digital filters, especially in social networking platforms like Instagram and built in apps to other social media like Facebook, as well as through our cell phones, which alter the photos we take. Not only do we have Adobe Photoshop where every kind of manipulation can be made, but now we have at-your-finger’s-reach-ability to manipulate instantly and easily.
Instagram advertises: “Take a picture or video, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram — it’s that easy….It’s a new way to see the world.”
But at what cost are we “seeing the world” if we are false projecting to each other?
This sounds a bit like popping a pill to erase your memory and thinking/feeling capacity – think “Blue Pill” (blissful ignorance of illusion) in the Matrix.
There’s a whole lot of value in widening our perceptions and seeing from different perspectives, but if the new way to see the world is by taking something that feels not so good, and falsifying it through an alteration to temporarily relieve us and gain outside appreciation that we are craving from ourselves, within, then this world we’re “seeing” isn’t the kind I personally would like to have as my new reality.
Now, I know this may seem like I’m reaching or that it is borderline creativity vs. deceptive illusions. But I’m not knocking the artistic abilities that are simultaneously being offered to many to create interesting imagery that at one time was only available to an artist with the gift to paint or draw, to a photographer who had different lens attachments we don’t have, or to someone who could afford pricey programs to digitally create things.
The fact that anyone can now create “art” and play with creativity is great, but is it worth it to entertain in the ways that some are, and what are the hidden downfalls to watch out for if you do?
What I’m hitting on is the ways it is damaging to how we view ourselves and how that may affect our ability to function from a whole state of well-being, along with the collective message we are empowering through acceptance of this practice. Everything starts out small, but has the potential to escalate from there if it isn’t recognized for what it is and reined in early.
I have heard many people say they won’t take a photo of themselves “unless it is through an Instagram filter” or “thank goodness for Instagram because it’s the only thing that makes me look good”. Referring to hiding this, that, or the other imperfection.
Really? What happened to not liking how magazines manipulate how people look? Why are we now becoming the very thing we felt was damaging and an absurd and fabricated lie of false advertising?
It used to be that a woman might not leave the house without her makeup on. Now, it’s a matter of not sharing a photo without your filter on.
Now, I know it’s not that people are creating longer limbs, chiseling waistlines, enlarging, decreasing, adding where there isn’t, etc., with these applications, but the filters are in fact being used to “hide” things in some way or another, or make us into what we feel is a more attractive image that feels better to project.
I also know that cameras can be unforgiving and put on extra pounds where there aren’t, or that some people simply don’t translate on camera the same as in person. This has always been something people were aware of and made adjustments for. (Not necessarily making it a thing we should accept as an ok practice to avoid because it’s always been that way, as it is our judgments against self that has increasingly become the culprit) But it seems to me that little by little we are being given the tools to not just shift this way to feel better, or completely refuse the photo, but instead can manipulate and alter to appease our egos. And the thing is, it isn’t stopping there, as editing through many different platforms is increasingly taking place whether through photo-altering programs (like Adobe Photoshop), when there’s more time available, or even editing our words we share in all social media platforms, so that nothing is raw, real, or in the moment.
Filters have become the “quick-fix”.
Everything is devised into an “ideal” way we want to be perceived based on what we think about how others will think of us.
And beyond the filters, haven’t we all heard, and said ourselves, “this is my good side”, “only take a photo of me at this angle when I’m sitting or standing between people, or from above to make me look tall and thin”. We have become our own judges and magazine editors to not only tear ourselves down, but to hide behind illusionary filters, rather than “see, feel, and be” the raw truth of our nature without worrying what others think.
I have worked with many photographers in the past when I was modeling and have seen some of them manipulate my photos in ways I didn’t like, taking away my beauty mark on my chin if they saw fit, or airbrushing away at the skin to take away any natural indications of a life well-lived through lines, the sun’s kiss on the skin, or natural pores.
Back in the day I didn’t have a say in what they did to some of my photos, but now I do, and if I were to have a professional photo shoot (especially after I’ve really explored the meaning and implications of all of this), I’ll be sure to exercise it, as well as would seek out a photographer who is more of a “soul essence” photographer rather than handy at Photoshop.
But for the most part, I find that photos taken by amateur photographers, which can be a friend, partner, or family member, and sometimes even yourself, can just as much capture your naturally beautiful essence, if “you” are in your naturally beautiful essence.
I don’t know about you, but I rather prefer that when you see/meet me in person, the same person shows up that you are seeing in the photo.
As an artist, I believe wholeheartedly in art and creativity and there is a time and place for that and conveying a certain quality to the imagery projected (ie. creative quality as fun and art vs. purposeful illusory alterations of what is meant to be a natural image to perpetrate something it isn’t). So it does depend on the context it is being used. But when we are specifically manipulating the natural beauty of people or even nature, in a real-time photo, to make it fit a better looking ideal to receive acceptance and praise for, does that make it art? Or, is that deceptive and harmful in more ways than is realized in the moment when we are fixated on this altered image?
Some may say that it is helpful in visualizing the ideal you, to see yourself in these manipulated versions. My only answer to that, are questions.
Are you visualizing this particular “ideal” because you were conditioned to and as a response to not yet repatterning yourself into self-love? Is it truly a natural version of you if you were in your vibration of authentically balanced well-being, so hence is a projected vision you are naturally manifesting?
I think the key is to understand who you are as an individual and what is naturally within the personal, vibrational framework of your creation that will result from a healthy embrace of life, expressive sharing, and integrated healing. For instance, I believe we each have a “natural” weight that we would be if we were in balance, love, and joy of ourselves and the expression of who we are. It will likely not be what you “think” that ideal is and nor can it be compared to someone else, as we are each unique. Nothing about us will be the same.
Aren’t we always regurgitating the importance of loving ourselves exactly as we are? Well….again, another opportunity to walk the walk. And yes, I know this comes with a lot of conscious commitment and work to move through the pains and misunderstandings of the past, but it is possible.
I wrote a post that looks a bit further into this, so you can read more about self value here: True or False? I Am Perfect Just As I Am
The main point of THIS post is to share a perspective to individually explore in how we may or may not be hindering the very values we are working toward embodying, as well as to help us be more mindful of the practices we are engaging in and accepting, in terms of how they relate to the bigger picture.
Technology can be used in synergy with nature if we wisely utilize it as such. But unfortunately, I am seeing a lot of technological advances getting out of hand and driving us farther away from our relationship WITH nature, rather than bringing us to a better understanding and the productive partnership it could be. Not all advances are healthy advances. And manipulations whether of food, nature’s cycles, ecosystems, DNA, information, or even images, are definitely on the radar for making the hair on the back your neck stand up.
Idealizing specific images, genetics, physical traits, or anything unrealistically natural or celebratory of diversity, is not only personally harmful to each, but creates the potential for major segregation, mass judgments, and worse.
This has the ability to alter our perceptions of what is healthy, beautiful, natural, and attainable. Why is it that we are accepting media’s representation of abnormal ideals into our daily lives, even if that is in what we think are harmless and fun ways?
Is it really harmless? Or is it yet another way of deceiving ourselves and setting us up for bigger and more harmful deceptions down the road?
For what it’s worth, I felt guided to share this and as always, you can do with it as feels aligned with your own heart, as we all have free will.
It’s a harsh enough reality that we hear of so much depression, disorders, plastic surgery, and medications to suppress the associated feelings, but there are the damages of deaths also taking their toll, and unhealthy relationships all stemming from things like acceptance of these “industry standards” that we are now, little by little, in trickling ways, accepting into the mainstream of life. Companies are making tons of money off of the insecurities being created.
Self-empowerment and love is freedom.
As mentioned, image manipulation can be done for artistic reasons, but are also being unfortunately used as deceitful tools or harmful false projections. People are easily swayed by photos, as vision is a powerful stimulus to belief. We’ve all heard people say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” So when that visual cortex of the brain is triggered to process information seen, it creates a responsive acceptance, unless you have other ways of filtering your beliefs and behaviors.
Image manipulation transforms images to convey what you want, instead of offering what the original image is. If creating art with a specific purpose, this may be appropriate, but if just sharing yourself with friends and family, wouldn’t it make more sense to have it be real?
So the next time you choose the photo to represent you and contemplate the filter to convey it, it may be interesting to listen closely to the inner dialogue going on while doing so. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a photo that shows you at your “natural” best, conveys the essence of feeling or quality you desire to share, or really highlights your special and unique features and characteristics.
However, if you find yourself caught up in damaging self-dialogue and deeply fixated on “altering” your images to “hide” a beautiful reality of you that others would likely find reflective and comforting of their own unique and natural beauty, then maybe there’s something to what I’m sharing.
The more we each can take courageous steps to share our vulnerability a little more each day, the more we help others to do the same.
I see these filters to be much more than a creative tool. I see them also being symbolic of a way of filtering and numbing out what we don’t want to see, hear, feel, and experience, which is a form of self-denial. Like anything that has productive and nonproductive qualities, this makes them a tricky, yet useful tool for learning and growth. I’ve come to see the filters as equating to the illusions and veils we would like to see erased so that we can see clearly and stand in our power.
However, the way that happens is to remove the filters.
If not being consciously monitored, I see these filters as a potential hindrance that could symbolize our keeping blinders on and numbing us to the raw, refreshing, renewing, and freeing reality we so desire. And I don’t feel that it will stop at just this, unless we connect the dots and make the conscious connections with everything in our lives we are engaged in.
I see the filters hiding our natural beauty and falsifying our relationship to self, others, and to the nature of reality, and Nature, itself. They’ve taken photoshopping to the instant-editing platform of social media and it won’t stop there.
So keep your senses about you and your heart full of self-love.
What drives the choices you are making? Are you faking your way through life, hiding, or embellishing in order to feel alive and connected, when in fact you don’t? Or are you living and loving out loud, who you really are?
Tania Marie is a visionary artist, sacred tattoo designer, author & Reiki Master Teacher whose creations, workshops and retreats in the healing arts are inspiring people globally.
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