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Screw Perfection: The New Normal on Social Media Is Just Normal

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A vignette from Coffee N Clothes

Aesthetically driven, the fashion, beauty and health industries have glommed on to Instagram and other visual-sharing platforms, with users uploading streams of inspirational, FOMO-inducing photos. Whether it's hot dog legs on the beach; a pretty manicure; or a latte with a designer handbag artfully arranged next to it, these unblemished vignettes play right into our collective insecurities. Let's be honest: It's a game of whose life is better. There are winners and there are losers. And the losers are looking at the winners' photos.

On the social web, we're supposed to be posting real, in-the-moment snaps—not altered fabrications. Still, the urge to "improve" reality has proven hard to ignore. In June, the news that 11 percent of #nofilter photos actually utilize a filter[a]—confirmed by social media marketing company Spredfast — quickly made headlines. A filter is the least of it. More insidious are the perfectly-crafted veneers of online fashion and health personalities, whose constant outfit and lifestyle documentation has grown into a cottage industry.

Image via Do the Hotpants.

Cracks are emerging in the facade, though. Earlier this month, fashion blogger Do the Hotpants admitted that she'd been photoshopping outfit photos, taking out a slight stomach bulge and smoothing her skin. "In my ongoing mission to lift the veil that is currently suffocating us women, I realized that I… haven't been entirely truthful with you. I'm sorry :(," she wrote to her readers. "But because I want to be as transparent with you as possible, I've decided to expose the instances where I used photoshop to distort and change my body. I know it might only look like an inch or two[b] removed from my waist, or a couple zits blurred here and there, but my stomach and my skin have been huge insecurities for me my entire life." She wrote the post to remind her fans that not everything they see online is real, and that "even the people you look up to are flawed."

Last month, a popular vegan blogger revealed that she'd added some animal products back to her diet, writing, "I tried dairy and the world didn't end." In pursuit of some idealized, uber-healthy existence, she admitted that she'd fallen prey to disordered eating.

Two months ago, Caitlin Turner, the popular Instagram personality behind yogic account @gypsetgoddess, confessed that she had injured herself performing one of her gumby-like poses and hadn't wanted to tell her followers. "I strained my back a week ago, by twisting a little too deeply," she said. "Now that I've been taking a break from the advanced poses I've been afraid to post. Afraid that if I'm not doing a handstand or tangling myself into a pretzel, that you guys won't like me or will unfollow me."

Breaking the "everything's hunky-dory" veneer can be scary for bloggers and Instagrammers whose identities are based on a certain look. Elizabeth Spiridakis Olson, creative director of Afar magazine and a popular presence on Instagram (@white_lightning), divulged two weeks ago that everything in her life wasn't as amazing as she'd been projecting. "Was feeling so low last night," she wrote. "There's so much about moving [to San Francisco] that I love but 10 months is a long time without real friends. We have some good ones we see every once[c] in a while, and everyone we've met is so nice but they have their own crew and aren't clamoring to add new people I'm sure. It's hard. This might be tmi for social media and I might delete it but anyway."

As social media becomes more and more pervasive in our day-to-day lives, it's going to be harder and harder to maintain a perfect image without going completely nuts or just admitting the ridiculousness of your actions. Eventually, hiding your struggles behind a pretty face online will be the faux pas. But we're not there yet.

This article originally appeared on The Verge.