Age Inappropriate: the good, the bad and the unmentionable
PUBLISHED: 21:52 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:52 22 October 2019
Sharon Morrison says looking fabulous on social media means you can be a bit of a disappointment in real life. Do you stop editing your pics, or edit the real you?
Do you know who Rankin is? If you don't, let me enlighten you. First of all, he's a photographer and he's only known by the one name, so that tells you something and he's a megastar (shooting the Rolling Stones, Kate Moss, Jay-Z, Madonna, that kind of thing and, hey, he was at Latitude this year), but he's also a campaigning megastar. This year he was involved in a project called 'Selfie Harm' to explore the effect self-image can have on young people's mental health. He took photographs of several teenagers, aged between 13 and 19, and asked them to edit their own shots using one of the many selfie apps available today.
The result was dramatic, but probably what you might expect: fuller lips, bigger eyes, great skin tone, smaller nose. The thing is, I saw the 'before' pictures of these teenagers and they all looked fabulous, really great, and the apps they used made their faces look unnatural, fake. But that was exactly the look they were going for, because that's what will get more social media 'likes' and it's become popular, but not in a good way, and it's got a name too: Snapchat dysmorphia. This is a type of virtual body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), where some people are going to unhealthy lengths to rectify perceived flaws in their appearance and look more like their altered social media image or more like those who influence them. This is a mental health condition affecting one in every 50 people, and growing, as millennials are more and more influenced by what they see online.
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Last year I did a shoot with Rankin and instantly understood the lure of being able to create an improved version of yourself. This was a 12-page feature for American runway magazine The Impression, and the theme was strong older women (there were several of us and we were all between the ages of 50-90), happy in their own unretouched skin. We wore eye makeup but no foundation, and Rankin used the Facetune app to rejuvenate one half of our faces by removing lines, flattening eyebags, sharpening the jawline. Well, call me two-faced, I really, really liked the enhanced version of me. It looked like me, but also like someone who slept soundly for nine hours a night, had independent wealth and endless happy thoughts. Yes, I could achieve that 'fresher' look through filler and Botox and that isn't permanent, so an easy route for most, but who wants to be Cinderella at just gone midnight every few months? So why not go the whole hog and go under the knife? Plastic surgery can knock about 10 years off your age and that's permanent, so if you're not happy with the result you're well and truly stuck. Except you're not. There's always another op.
If I began tweaking, not my pics, me, would I stop, or would I find something else that needed attention? We've all seen enough people in the media and in the local supermarket who have had surgery, or filler and Botox, or the lot, but didn't know when to stop, and look odd, a Stepford-Wives-odd. Worse still, and I can only say this because I watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, the look can be strangely samey in a pouty-lipped, full-cheeked, eyebag-less way. I regularly confuse one of the mum's friends in this programme with one of her daughter's friends, but at least 30 years separates them, facially though, they could be twins. This should be a warning to all of us to leave well alone; just enjoy being the wonderful people we are.
I don't want to disappoint you, but I'm not entirely happy in my unretouched skin. Yes, I can stay physically in shape through regular exercise, but no amount of work outs will remove or reduce my eye bags, sagging jowls and nasolabial folds (nose to mouth lines), so I either learn to love them (I've tried; not happening), wait for them to become fashionable (definitely not happening) or do something about it, and there's no shortage of people who could me help there. My face is me, encapsulates my character, my decades of living and I don't want to change that. But I do want to look fresher, not for social media 'likes', just to have less of a shock when I see my refection in shop windows, or my face to match my body, to enjoy being me more. I realise that Rankin was making an excellent point about being yourself and not resorting to an app to present a perfected version to the world, and I agree; I just want to look a little less imperfect, and I don't see a problem in that. Or have I been drinking the Kool-Aid too?
Contact Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org