I threw away the rose colored glasses a few years ago. My ownership of several pair had spanned decades. In my twenties, it was useful. They matched my ignorance and my naivete. By the time I hit my thirties, one lens was cracked and an arm was missing from EVERY SINGLE PAIR! It did not take long…Wait strike that, like fo’real heffa you were thirty! It took a long time for me to realize looking through the rosy lenses only prolonged my avoidance of many realities and that was not without consequences. I was willfully remaining blind to way too many facts. I lived and I learned.
And then came SnapChat filters!!!! I love my SnapChat and every single filter on it. The problem is that it is the modern day version of rose colored glasses. It is all really kinda sad. Most people cannot stand to look at the world without a filter anymore. Some funny bunny ears. New eye color. Big round glasses. Ta-da!! The reality is blemish free.
I truly like filters as much as the next gal and guy; however, I’m starting to notice image buffers in every aspect of our social communication. Instagram, which I also use, is filled with carefully staged photos. Everything is snatched, contoured, and funneled through easy access lenses. Until, it is perfect. In every way, except the truth. Authenticity is a carefully placed mug with the right inscription presented to the masses at a readable angle. We, as a collective, can’t handle the truth anymore. Under the table is dirty. The mug has Folgers, which I like by the way, and not a fancy Chai, which I also love. You don’t have any eggs for breakfast and no money to go get any. Your job doesn’t pay enough to live, let alone live your best life. Tuh. But whose gonna put that on the ‘gram. No one wants to see it; therefore, it must not be so. We have managed to filter reality through a variety of lenses until it’s polished clean. Dirt free. Illness free. Deviant free. Judgment free.
That is not reality.
I have a dear friend who is about to finish her final round of chemotherapy. She has a wonderfully supportive tribe of women and men around her. In one of our conversations, she shared with me that her fight with cancer had altered some of those friendships as the side effects of chemotherapy became more apparent. She had long-term friends that had become awkward and distant in their communications. Some panicked on her bad days and others over exaggerated her good ones. Some micro-managed ever part of her recovery to keep a healing lens affixed to the situation. Others dropped out of sight, because they just could not find a filter that blurred out the unpleasant edges and still kept her intact. She has had way more good days than bad, but even openly sharing about fatigue or vomiting or hair loss provoked such an anguished response from some of her support group that it has almost been easier not to share. From what she told me this is not rare; but unfortunately, a common experience for those diagnosed with a major illness. Loved ones do not always know how to look at you and not see the illness all the time.
She said, “Fuzz, they just don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to be around it.”
I said, “It’s not that they don’t love you. They do. It’s just that people are no longer use to seeing life without a filter.”
She told me I better write this down. I did.
The filtered life of iGens…
My grandboy loves, loves, loves Snapchat and Facebook messenger filters. He’s only 1 year old. If he gets his hands on a phone, he wants to look into the camera and add a hat or some glasses or bucked teeth. He giggles and giggles. He doesn’t know how it happens, but the filters give him happiness and laughter. When he gets fussy and restless, do you know what I do? I call his great-grandmommy on the phone, so that they can talk and play with filters. I distract him with illusions. And don’t be gasping…isn’t that what all the animations are for? Illusions to distract us??? Right.
Filters alter our perception of the image we are looking at. My grandboy looks very much like a rough and tumble little boy, but Easter egg ears and pink bubble letters make him look a little all soft and frilly. App developers, why aren’t there more filters for boys? Y’all do know that boys like the filters too huh? Well anyway….Will he grow to think his eyes were gray when they have always been brown? Will he wonder where his pink rosy cheeks have gone? Is he able to connect the concept of dressing up with make believe or will these features alter his perception of himself and others? We simply do not know.
Thus is life in these modern times. Enjoy the innovation and wait 10 years to hear about the adverse side-effect. One filter distraction after another. One filtered narrative after another. Nothing is ugly and if it is we go through a handy collection of frames to find the right one to dress it up with. A montage of images to illustrate our befuddled ideas and mystifying connections. Nothing is really what it seems. We detract and distract to the point of complicity. Life, as we perceive it, is good for everyone.
Innovation bends old rules…
Of course not everyone is so easily blinded. Their olfactory sense still tells them that something in rotten over the fence. They know that they have to live by certain rules in their community and they take pride in being honest and not cutting corners. But…then..they step a toe on the neighbor’s lush green grass only to find out is artificial. If they tell the association, they are a snitch. Nosy. But they feel it’s not fair for their neighbor to break a rule that’s meant to keep things uniform. Pleasant. Authentic.
Questions enter the discourse. Why are they putting toes on other people’s grass? What exactly were they doing over the property line and is that technically trespassing? What is the state of their own grass? Doesn’t the neighbor have the right to maintain his appearance of grass anyway he wants? Did they know that someone down the street doesn’t even have grass? Why aren’t they telling about that? And just like that the association rules against artificial turf is not the issue. It becomes who has the right to say who has broken rules and how. Justifications. Historical data. Real life examples. Filters.
Can’t hide reality forever…
Ask a teenager to clean the kitchen and they will likely tell you that they already cleaned the bathroom. Yeah the two have nothing to do with each other save that they are both rooms in a house. Cleaning the bathroom doesn’t mean that your kitchen isn’t dirty. Likewise, filters do not hide the truth. People get cancer. Racism exists. Injustice is an actual thing. Children are sold for sex. Harsh, ugly truths. The stench of it is filter proof.
It is okay not to want to look at that all the time. Completely understandable. All I’m saying is don’t forget that you’re not actually a blue eyed cat with zebra print glasses. Be present in real time, so that you will never forget what’s truly authentic in a world full of fake.
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