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A Picture Doesn’t Say It All

Photographer Andrew H. Walker recently set up a unique photo booth at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival where he composited photos of celebrities posing as both their “public” and “private” selves. He was intrigued by the difference between the public’s view of a celebrity versus how that celebrity might really be feeling and living. His goal was to capture a life or an emotion that might be surprising to those only looking from the outside in.

When I first looked at Walker’s pictures I was intrigued. Celebrities who I saw as bubbly and happy, seemed to be portraying sadness or emptiness. Those who I thought were normally angry or unapproachable, smiled or looked silly. What I realized after scrolling through the pictures is that I judged people based on mere glimpses of their lives that I see on social media or TV, when in reality, I know nothing about them.

The fact is, the concept of perceiving without knowing reaches far outside the realm of celebrity. Everyday we get on social media. We look at all of the people we are friends with and we judge. We see people through the narrow lens of the latest social media trend. What we perceive to be true about a person is a small picture or blurb on our phone screens.

The way we see people is controlled. I’m in college. I am stressed a grand majority of the time. I hardly ever wear makeup. I feel most comfortable in my over-sized Belmont sweatshirt. I eat a granola bar for lunch 50% of the time. Yesterday, I spilled coffee on every single one of my notebooks, in my shoes, and all over my backpack. My life is far from glamorous or perfect. But if you were to look at my social media, you wouldn’t see that. You’d see cute pictures of my sister, some flowers, and a few dogs.

The reality is we all have “unflattering” sides that we wish for most people to never see. We pretend like we have it together because we want people to perceive us in a certain way.

What’s worse is we get online or go in public and we judge. We begin to compare ourselves to others. We see the friend who went on the dream vacation. We see the girl who just got the perfect internship. We see that person who visits all the trendy coffee shops. We see people with better hair, better clothes, better makeup, more money, bigger smiles, and the best relationships. The list goes on and on.  

Pretty soon we are sucked in to believing that we aren’t good enough. Our lives aren’t good enough. What we have isn’t good enough. We rip ourselves apart based on someone else’s filtered picture on Instagram or the girl in the cute outfit we saw in line at the grocery store.

Sometimes even the opposite happens. We see someone we perceive to be lesser than us and we begin to think poorly of them. That girl who always gets the best grades finally got a C and we secretly rejoice because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We see a girl who’s having a bad hair day and we think to ourselves “thank goodness that isn’t me.” It seems that if we aren’t judging ourselves based on how others seem to appear, we are rejoicing in others’ “misfortunes” because what we perceive to be true about them makes us feel better about ourselves. How sad is that?

Out of all the people you are friends with on social media, how many of them do you actually know? How many people do you see on a regular basis? If you’re like me, you don’t see your Facebook friends all that often. What you know about them is what they choose to tell you, and normally it’s the best part of them.

Walker was right. Celebrities do have private selves that no one knows about. But so do we all. Social media has only increased the amount of misconception that happens in the world. This is not going to change anytime soon. But next time you get on social media or go to class and see the person who always has it “together,” remember that no one has a perfect life. Even those who seem to have all the fortune in the world have secrets, fears, and troubles. Stop comparing yourself to what you see on a phone screen and start embracing the fact that life isn’t perfect and what other people post on Instagram does not define your adequacy.

Kaylinn is a Corporate Communication major at Belmont University located in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves shopping, watching reality tv, and eating pizza. She likes talking politics, but can also hold an equally compelling conversation about the Kardashians. She dreams of traveling the world and living in Italy with her little sister.
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