I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest and Instagram lately, being inspired by beautiful homes, swooning over their effortless style and knack for putting a room together, trying to soak up as much inspiration for our own renovation as possible.
In fact, there’s so many dream homes and #housegoals to soak in that they’ve almost become normal to me. Bloggers and publishers obviously want to show beautifully styled homes, and why not? Although we all know they’re probably pretty staged (Hell, we all shove the clutter behind us when we’re taking a photo to post on social media right?) our brains still continue to take these images at face value, as a depiction of reality. While I’m sure some of the people posting these photos may really live like that (I have friends whose homes are always amazingly clean and tidy!) I’d wager that most are kicking their dirty kickers out of the way before clicking the shutter. The fact of the matter is that there’s no need to show us “normal” homes – we can look around us to see that. They’re appealing instead to our desire for perfection.
Who doesn’t like looking at a perfectly designed and furnished home? At the upper end of the spectrum it can literally be looked at as art. But unlike a painting in a gallery, looking at beautiful homes on Instagram (homes fundamentally like yours or mine) while slouching on a slightly past-its-best sofa surrounded by half-finished mugs of tea and dodgy stains on the carpet where the cat was once sick, means we end up playing the comparison game.
I soon realised the feelings of ‘comparisonitis’ that I was having was very similar to how the images of women that we’re presented with online and in the media can affect me. While the body positivity movement has been making huge strides in showcasing all kinds of beautiful bodies (I keep seeing amazing examples of model agencies, magazines and businesses who are being more mindful of the body-types they present to the world) it’s very easy to fall into the habit of still fawning over and comparing ourselves to ‘perfect’ bodies when we’re left to our own devices on sites like Instagram, or personal blogs.
I don’t know what the solution is but I do know we shouldn’t demand that publishers never show perfect homes or perfect bodies – some people really do live and look like that – and a lot of people are strong, healthy adults with the capacity to admire those lives and lifestyles and move on with their day. Some of us however, have the kind of personality which clings to an idea of perfection and demands it of ourselves. And when we see it in other people, it cements in our minds the belief that perfection is possible and therefore the only reason we haven’t achieved it yet is through personal weakness.
Do the images we see online cause eating disorders? No, I don’t think so, but they do poke a big stick at a personality trait deep within some of us by normalising perfection. They can, and do, reinforce to some of us that thinner is better, or that if we could only be a size 8 we’d finally be happy. I think ultimately it has to come down to self-awareness and personal responsibility. Once we become aware that we are in the at-risk category, we need to monitor and moderate our own consumption.
Will I continue to move my shit out of the way when I take a photo of a room? Of course, no-one needs to see my dirty laundry. But each time I see one of these images I’ll make the effort to remind myself that it’s not showing the full picture.