So THIS is why women use filters, I thought to myself.
It took just 12 minutes of me trying “beautifying” filters for the first time to go from “I’m happy with my real face” to “Ughh why don’t I look like that?”
Before that, the only filters I’d tried were the joke ones – you know, make me Yoda, make me a beardy man, age me by 30 years. And quite recently, the “face pillow” filter on Instagram stories (i.e. what you look like with too many extreme fillers).
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The face pillow is a joke filter for amusement purposes (I HOPE!), but it’s also kind of scary that with waaaaay too many fillers I could look like that. It’s put me off having any, or at least I’d think about it very, very, VERY carefully before getting any done. But I know the filter is just for laughs, and I do think it’s kinda funny.
But what about the less extreme filters? You know, the ones that just… enhance. Smooth out your skin. Tighten your jawline. Widen your eyes. Plump up your lips. Generally take off 10 years (or 20 or 30).
Now they’re the ones I have a problem with. The reshaping, smoothing, tightening filters turn me right off.
The reason? Because they’re subtle enough to allow us to present our faces as our real, this-is-what-we-look-like faces. Now I know what my ageing, six-months-shy-of-50 face looks like. And the last thing I want to do is kid myself I don’t look how I look, instead, presenting myself as some smooth-skinned, 28 year old [looking] woman.
I also don’t want people to think that I don’t have skin pigmentation, or jowls, or crows feet.
But for research purposes (and to publish here), I took one normal selfie – makeup and hair done, but no filter – and then blitzed my way through Instagram’s filters on stories. I was riding the filters wave like a kid in a sweet shop.
It did NOT take long for me to look at the filtered ones and start thinking “oh that one’s nice”… and forgetting what I actually looked like.
By the time I got back round to looking at the original, I was somewhat horrified. This took a grand total of 12 minutes for me to go from “Yep, I look nice [unfiltered]“ to, “Oh god I don’t look anywhere near as nice as I thought” when looking at the SAME photo, just 12 minutes apart.
Here’s my real face – zero tweaks – with a pretty standard filtered version right alongside…
…Clever, huh? Soft, and smooth, wrinkle-free, and very ‘soft’. All flushed and warm and healthy-looking. Yet it’s genuinely frightening how quickly you get used to it and see that as your real face.
The visibility of older women
Being an older woman, I WANT to see other older women in blogs. I WANT to see them on the internet, in traditional media and on social media.
In the early days of my blog, I tried to put this across to other women who were leaving me blog post comments. They loved my blog, but said they didn’t think that anyone wanted to see women their age, so they immediately gave up all notions of starting one themselves. As I put it to them, “You were glad to have found ME, weren’t you? That means there are other women who want to see YOU, too.”
So we’re pleased as punch to see other older women out there, feistily doing their thing, going about their everyday life and posting a few selfies along the way. But if they’re all using filters, isn’t that the same as seeing NO other older women? If they’re presented as having the skin and jawline of a 30 year old, doesn’t it render their (wonderfully) ageing presence obsolete?
I found this quote from psychotherapist and certified life coach Tess Brigham when Googling “women using filters” (which, as a side point, 90% of women admitted to using #ShockedFace):
“What’s different about social media is these aren’t just celebrities and supermodels, these are people you know. The feeling of ‘why isn’t that me’ becomes even stronger and more significant.” [source]
So if that’s true, that we’re following ‘people we know’ (and by that I mean bloggers, influencers, your work colleague, your best friend and her auntie, etc.), aren’t we following them precisely BECAUSE they’re not celebrities or supermodels? Because they’re regular women and we can relate to them?
My question is this: surely it’s ultimately damaging to self-esteem, both to the person viewing the filtered photo and to the person that posted it? I personally can’t relate to a filtered, smoothed-out, wrinkle-free image of a woman my age any more than I can of an unfiltered image of a 20 year old who still has the flush of youth and beautifully smooth, tight skin.
The difference is, the latter doesn’t unnerve me.
But then again – AM I recognising all of the filtered ones as exactly that, especially if that 90% statistic is to be believed? Which of these (all filtered) selfies could pass as untouched, especially if that’s all I’d ever posted?
Look how many of them increase the size of my lips – note that none of the filters were described as specialist lip-enhancing ones, they just did it anyway. Some tighten my jawline and get rid of my jowls. All of them smooth out my skin and eliminate wrinkles. One has narrowed my whole face.
But I’d say the majority of them look pretty “real”, especially if you’d never seen me before.
I won’t lie, I look all SORTS of youthful and flushed here. Wow… that’s powerful. I can see the attraction (for want of a better word) in using these filters – and never going back.
Do I wish I looked like that in real life? Of course I bloody do. But I don’t, because I’m not 25 anymore. I’m twice that. There’s no need to kid myself that I look like that any longer than it takes for me to finish writing this post.
What I’ve actually had done to my face – and would consider having done
In the same way a dog isn’t meant to have cropped ears or a docked tail, we are meant to have wrinkles as we age.
I LOVE seeing wrinkles. I LOVE crows feet. I may not “love” my jowls, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them on other older women.
However, this doesn’t mean I’m against surgery or enhancements. Not at all.
If you didn’t know: I’ve been having botox on and off for about eight years or so, mostly just to soothe my 11’s lines (I’ve always been blessed with resting bitch face and a naturally downturned mouth) to prevent me looking sour-faced. Plus a little in the forehead to smooth out a few lines.
I also have this weird habit of raising my right eyebrow when I have my photo taken – I don’t even know I’m doing it – and the rippling waves of lines above said brow were getting really noticeable and almost distracting in photos. So I ask for an extra injection or two into the area above that Roger Moore impersonator.
You only have to look at the close-ups of my face on the blog to see that I don’t have a glassy, smooth forehead – and that’s just my choice. I have no problem with those that DO want an ultra-smooth forehead; it’s just not for me.
I would also definitely consider a facelift. Consider being the keyword. Not right now, and certainly not until I could afford a good one… and that may never happen. But that’s okay.
So my stance on surgery and enhancements is, do what makes you feel good. Do it, don’t it. But only because YOU want to do it, not because someone close to you told you to, or because all your friends/your favourite celebrities are doing it, or because you’ve seen everyone on Instagram with smooth, tight faces and you want that too.
As you can see from my original photo, even with botox, makeup and good lighting, I still don’t look anywhere NEAR as ‘perfect’ as the filtered images.
And if I’m being honest, it’s making my blood boil that those filters have installed a feeling of dissatisfaction with how I look, albeit temporarily.
The feeling of dissatisfaction filters created in me
Maybe I’m being hypocritical, but to me, having work done and using filters are two entirely different things. One is what you still see in the mirror, and one isn’t. You have the surgery and/or enhancements and it’s still your face, what you’ll still see in the mirror.
But filters… I’d feel like I’d be kidding myself. I’d be pretending to be something I’m not.
And what would happen when people see me in real life? Or brands want to work with me based on what they’ve seen on my online platforms? Yeah… there’s going to be a BIG disparity. So for me, using filters would be a bit like lying on my CV.
I’ve been running this blog for over 10 years. That means I can look back on what I looked like 10 years ago… and I can clearly see the difference in my face. I may not have noticed it in my everyday life, but I’ve definitely aged. I look 10 years older. And although I’m not completely over the moon about everything associated with ageing(!), I can happily accept it.
But just yesterday, until I started to apply those filters, I was perfectly satisfied with my face. I would look in the mirror, I was happy. A nicely posed, selfie with makeup on (and me trying to look my best)? Yeah, I thought I looked okay for nearly 50. Add a face-smoothing, wrinkle-diminishing filter? Now I’m looking at my original picture and thinking, Oh god…
But I’m good – a bit of a pep talk with myself and I KNOW that filters are not my bag, and I won’t be using them. I’m alright.
Filters are the classic slippery slope. The more I looked at filtered photos of myself, the more I liked them. I’LL ADMIT THAT. Coming back to the unfiltered version and all I was doing was thinking that my skin tone was uneven, my lips were thin and my forehead was lined (let’s not even MENTION the jowls). The filters’ job is to point out every single flaw that I have – that I didn’t even know I had.
And my GOD that’s unhealthy.
Nonetheless, the more I look at the beautifying filters (which are, by the way, generally called variations on “young and beautiful” and “smooth skin”, FFS), the more I realise that they look super weird to me. They are definitely creepy (not to be confused with “crepey”, which of course they eradicate). Looking at all my filtered versions in that grid I created, there’s definitely a sense of “me” being lost. It wouldn’t take much for me to change the angle, add a little more eye makeup, do my hair really well, get rid of background distractions, show off some decolletage… and it’d end up looking NOTHING like me.
The thought of then creating that illusion every single time would, for me, be really damaging. Damaging to my self-esteem, damaging to my mental health, damaging to my integrity. I’ve already got a little used to how I look in the filtered versions just in the course of writing this post.
But doing it day in, day out? Looking at that much perfection every time would mean I’d come crashing down on a much more regular basis when others take photos of me, or when I just look in the mirror even WITH hair and makeup done.
No thanks. Not now, not ever.
My experiment really couldn’t have been any briefer or more simple (and to be honest it was an unintentional experiment, I was taking the photos with filters purely to publish in this post to demonstrate what I’m talking about), but its results were very, very telling.
I said I think older women using filters is (can be) damaging. I can imagine it’s even more damaging if you’re younger.
I’m pretty much okay with people who use them occasionally – I can think of a few people I follow on Instagram who use a filter now and then; they’re very clear about it when they’re using one. Personally, I think I’ll just steer clear of them altogether if my experience here is anything to go by.
I had a lot more fun with the joke filters so think I’ll be sticking to those in future:
And here’s the pillow face one if you wanted to see it (though remember you can’t ever UNsee it…!)
Ultimately, we need to make sure we’re being honest with ourselves. If filters make you feel ANYTHING like how they made me feel, stop using them straight away. Get used to your real face. Love it, cherish it, do everything you can to make it the best it can be with love and self-care (plus SPF and a good mascara).
The best filter you can have? A smile. And on that cheesy note…
What are your thoughts on filters – do you use them, have you ever used them? Comment below…
Stay safe XOXO
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