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Au Naturale

Words by: Noemi Mejia

Admit it – not every picture of ourselves on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat is candid. And no, a planned “candid” doesn’t count. Before the lens of our cameras snap a photo, we make sure that the background, foreground, and our overall appearance are as “Instagram-worthy” as possible. Just like professional fashion models, we vary our angles to have a lot of possible choices. When scanning through the results, we quickly discard photos where our hands look weird, our smiles awkward, and our eyes closed. Despite all the preparations we had made, we still alter the images we took with photo-editing apps like VSCO, Photoshop, and Lightroom among others.

But what are all these for?

For Lalin, the main character of a viral advertisement in Thailand, all the sharpness, contrast, exposure, and temperature adjustments are necessary to maintain her image – the image of a confident and beautiful girl with no flaws appearance-wise. In the ad, her edited beauty earned her thousands of followers and likes in Instagram.

The only problem was that the image she wanted to portray of herself did not necessarily correspond to reality. As soon as she became true to herself by posting unfiltered, unedited photos, her followers slowly dwindled until they disappeared completely.

In a sense, we are similar to Lalin. We like to measure by numbers. We know exactly how many followers we have so we know when people unfollow us. We take note of the number of likes and comments our pictures get as soon as we upload them. If we don’t get the expected amount of reactions, some of us even delete our pictures and post them some other time. Surely, many of us try to hide behind the filters on Instagram. Like Lalin, we fuss over every detail of our photos because the moment we post a selfie with even the tiniest speck of imperfection on our face, we are absolutely sure people will just scroll past our picture without even pressing the like button.

In a world where many people feel that social approval is in the form of likes and follows and that self-worth is tantamount to the number of reactions your Facebook profile photo gets, it’s easy to get carried away with our phones in our hands and lose track of reality itself. Seeing your classmate’s recent trip to Japan or your high school friend’s new hairstyle might make you wonder, “How could he look so laidback and stress-free like he doesn’t have an exam next week?” or, “How could she look so flawless when she has a 7:30 class every single day?” But, you might be forgetting something important here: they’re human, too.

People are not always all wide smiles and poses. Like you, they have been photographed with their eyes closed or with their mouths open and have had bad hair days as well. They might have taken twenty, thirty, forty photos first before getting a perfect shot. Behind a photo is a living, breathing, feeling, human being who, like you, just wants to be loved, appreciated, and approved.

It’s not wrong to want to be loved, appreciated, and approved. To receive these, however, some people resort to promoting an image of themselves that is far from reality. But isn’t it more intimate and real if we were loved and appreciated not just in our best photos but also in our worst? In filtered and unfiltered shots, whether they were candid or posed? Isn’t social approval more gratifying if it came in the form of a warm hug from a friend, contagious laughter from a sibling, or a sincere compliment from a favorite professor and not from the beep of a cold, plastic device that is only warm when overcharged, contagious if not regularly cleaned, and never really sincere?

People are more than just the amount of comments on their Instagram posts. They’re a billion times more than the number of friends they have on Facebook or the number of their followers on Snapchat. And, more importantly, there is a whole lot more to a person than just his or her profile photo. Show love, appreciation, and approval not just for the photo, whether filtered or raw, but also for the person himself.

It’s time to put our phones down, and like and follow the person behind the screen.