Daring to Go Filterless: How Social Media Is Impacting Women and What We Can Do About It
Scrolling social media, I see women who are painted like porcelain dolls with tiny waists and thick-alicious hips. I see images of perfection that are totally disproportionate and unattainable. And what is worse: this dangerous trend now compels me.
I find myself searching frantically for the perfect filter before I post a pic, the one that looks “natural” or like I’m just the right age (younger than I am). If I can’t find it, then I spend way too much time adjusting the lighting and color saturation; maybe I’ll even add one of those funky (and slightly creepy) filters that make me look like an extraterrestrial, flower child, or naughty pirate.
I do this, I play along, even though most days all of it makes me want to scream (and makes me afraid for my daughter). I want to fit in and buy in to the lies because, let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier. It can be easier to go along with the flow, instead of setting myself apart.
Social Pressures on Women Made Me Question Everything
When I was 19, I traveled on an airplane by myself for the first time to see a boy I was dating who was in the Marines. Since it was the first time I had ever traveled anywhere alone as a young adult, I was very nervous about a lot of things, mainly what I was going to wear. I racked my brain, trying to shuffle through the catalogue of images imprinted on my mind, both by my own choosing and because of some crafty, well-compensated marketers. Obsessively, I panicked as I wondered for days: What do women wear on airplanes?
My young self decided that a plum business suit from the women’s section of a department store was the answer. The junior’s section wouldn’t cut it. I wasn’t going to a music festival or the mall; I was flying on an airplane. This was grown-up stuff. And I needed to fit in. All women wore business suits when they flew on airplanes, right? I found the cheapest jacket-slack combo that I could find and was pretty impressed with myself. My rump looked decent, and the color complimented my skin tone (according to the salesclerk), and most importantly, I looked the part.
On the airplane, a nice-looking man (also in a suit) asked what I did for work and where I was headed. There was an awkward pause after I told him I sorted CDs at Best Buy and was going to see my boyfriend in the service. He looked confused.
So did my boyfriend, wearing his cowboy hat, when he picked me up. He chuckled but said I looked “real fancy” and “professional.” My face turned as red as a strawberry in June. I realized I had made a mistake. I looked around at all the other young women, older women, and everyone else. What I learned was that you can dress any which way you darn well please on an airplane. I didn’t have to fit into someone else’s idea for me. I didn’t need to fit into someone else’s box.
Social Media Takes This Pressure on Women to an Extreme Level
When I look around at the world today, especially at the filtered world staring back at me from Social Media Land, it’s not much different. I find myself feeling like I am 19 again and in the dressing room. What should I wear? How do I fix my hair? My makeup? My eyebrows? Where is the best lighting? What on earth is “contouring?” I can spend too much time asking these questions and way too much time trying to figure it all out—trying to figure out who you want me to be and how to fit the real me into a world based on air-brushed appearances.
In the wave of today, I am not the only woman being swept up into the false narratives portrayed on social media. An entire generation of women is being negatively impacted by the grip that these lies have on us. What is often shown through these images are unrealistic expectations (having it all or doing it all) or unattainable physical characteristics of perfection (who ever thought butt implants were a good idea?). We are being forced to sink or swim in a filter-obsessed culture. And not only that, but the effects are rippling out to our families and children.
Sadly, current research shows that this aspect of culture is having an alarming emotional impact on women, especially teen girls. Not only is screen time increasing at alarming rates—up to more than seven hours a day for teens aged 13-18—research also suggests that young women are more likely to develop serious problems with depression, anxiety, and negative body image. There is even an increased risk of suicide for those that spend more than three hours a day on a screen. Our preoccupation with—and many would suggest enslavement to—social media is literally killing us.
All of this has led me to ask myself: What would happen if I dared to go filterless?
An entire generation of women is being negatively impacted by the grip that these lies have on us- unrealistic expectations or unattainable physical characteristics of perfection.
What Would It Be Like to Live Life Without Filters?
What if I was okay with breaking down the appearance of having it all together, of perfection? What if I could show my brow lines and crow’s feet that have been hard won; the thick thighs and matching thick waist that have held me up (and my babies) and carried me despite my being such a jerk to them?
Or what if I could show my real life? The way I lose my cool with my kids more than I’d like, or the way I try too hard at pretty much everything, or that I have to read a Psalm before takeoff (between deep breaths) just in case the plane goes down? What if I could show you all the parts of me and all the days I don’t want to wear a lady business suit (like ever)? I don’t want to fit into the perfectly edited life you’ve prescribed for me.
What if My Daughter and Your Daughter Could Do the Same?
What if they could let go of the pressure to look flawless, be flawless? And stop doing things they don’t feel comfortable doing, like wearing booty shorts or posting semi-nude beach pics because that’s what all the popular girls do? Or ignore messages from the older boys that are too into ditching class, smoking pot, and pressuring her to have zero boundaries? Or stop needing the perfect filter because if they don’t look like they’ve submerged themselves in a bathtub of Botox, then they won’t feel worthy or loved?
What if I want to be the real me all of the time and walk in that realness with courage and grace and humility? And what if I could share that with my daughter and with you?
Some strong women have shown me that it’s okay to break down the appearance of having it all together. It’s better, in fact, for a lot of reasons. One of them being: When I’m real, I give women around me permission to be real, too. When I’m vulnerable, I’m sharing with you that you can be vulnerable, too. It’s okay not to have it all together, and in fact, it’s better that way because it’s true.
There Is Beauty in This Place of Unedited Truth
Maybe I need to turn off social media, set down my phone and take a look around. Maybe I need to continue to explore ways to offer alternatives to what the culture says is just the way it is. We are beautiful—even with all of our mess, even imperfect. Let’s celebrate this truth and the God that says we are loved and lovely just the way we are. Let’s dare to go filterless.
“Perhaps this is the moment for which you’ve been created.” Esther 4:14
When I’m real, I give women around me permission to be real, too. When I’m vulnerable, I’m sharing with you that you can be vulnerable, too. It’s okay not to have it all together, and in fact, it’s better that way because it’s true.
Daring to go #filterless requires true confidence. Watch this video to learn helpful steps to build your self-confidence now…