Whilst reading articles on the Internet, I strumbled upon the Dove Self-Esteem Project.
The study reveals the impact that regular selfie-taking can have on teenage girls’ self-confidence.
In a nutshell, many teenagers see their self-confidence gradually deteriorate as they take selfies. Many feel prettier in their pictures than in real-life and each one has implicitly set a number of likes below which they simply delete the photo.
Basically, these girls strive to create a dream life for themselves online where every picture has to match the saying: “picture perfect”.
Where it becomes interesting on a personal level is that I’ve got a teenager at home (no need to say she takes selfies but her practice is quite moderate) and that between my three children, fifty cases and house, I also do photo shoots for this website. A website which also strives to be picture perfect, a website which must – nearly as an obligation – display my life as a dream.
When she discovered my digital initiative, my dear teen found all of the pictures I had published magnificent. Every single thing was divine in her eyes: me, the places, the outfits. Even what I hadn’t thought of yet was already perfect (I love you unconditionally too, my love).
What the dear teen could not see was that to keep 10 decent pictures, I had to delete 390 beforehand.
What she could not see was that in those 390 pictures, I look a 150 years old, my eyes are closed, I look bewildered, I have a weird grimace on my face, my tongue is sticking out, I am cartwheeling (no, forget that, I don’t cartwheel), ANYWAYS, the issue on these pictures is generally me, not the surroundings.
What she could not see is that a picture is often a stolen instant in which the magic of natural or artificial light operates on the makeup, the shapes and the materials. Magic is a rare thing though, it can’t happen in 400 pictures.
She couldn’t see all of that because just like the other people who visit this website, she could only see the end result which – this is where it gets tricky – emphasizes the dream-like aspect of my life (at least, I think it does? I hope?)
So I brought her to a photo shoot on a Saturday evening.
She understood that the assistants holding the flash has to literally dismantle their shoulder for minutes on end to provide the best possible lighting (otherwise a/ your complexion looks like a zombie’s, b/ your eyes are closed because the flash is too strong, c/ you’re in the dark, so not really in the picture at all, and cases a/, b/ and c/ are somewhat problematic).
All of this because I asked her to be the flash assistant for an evening, which she happily did, whilst dismantling her shoulder.
She realized that we had to redo the same photo 15 times or walk the same steps 30 times to produce but one good picture.
She realized that, outside of our artificial dream life, you are not even capable of putting your high heels sandals on when standing up in the street because your dress is too tight. That your assistant has to do it for you, real life stupid that you are (a smiling stupid one nonetheless).
She realized that you don’t fit in the dress which you confidently refused to try on since the last time you gave birth and that the same assistant has to fight with the zipper for you to look like a half-composed person.
She witnessed the moments in which you can’t understand the photographer’s instructions and where, at best, you look like an idiot….
… and at worst, people stop and stare at this strange woman with an erratical behavior.
She understood that there are angles, movements or places that just don’t work, ideas that fail and give you hideous results (hummm, burn everything, even the negatives, please. That doesn’t exist anymore? Oh well, burn the photographer then).
(or she also understood that you can drink champagne during a shooting but that, despite overwhelming evidences, stays something exceptional).
We went through the picture together and joyfully deleted about 90% of them.
It’s a quasi-easy exercise when you are forty, when you know yourself and who you are. I’ve got the emotional means to deal peacefully with the distance that exists between the woman on the pictures and the one who wakes up at 6.30 am with disheveled hair and dark circles under the eyes (glamorous, you asked for glamorous? Nope, sorry, must be the other flat).
When you’re a teen, in a phase of emotional construction, searching for who you are, it is less simple. But at least my beloved teenager will have gone behind the scenes and seen the other side of the picture. I hope it will help her put into perspective the “perfection” of the 3 billion selfies she sees every day.