Remember Vanessa Carlton's 2001 pop masterpiece "A Thousand Miles"? Of course you do, because it is the best song of all time and makes a poignant statement about love and time and units of measurement.
But now, 15 years (and more great albums than you realize!) later, the singer/songwriter has taken to her Facebook and Instagram profiles to make a statement about something else: body image and social media.
"Let's get real in this Holiday Inn in Portland," she begins in a caption that accompanies a pair of stomach-revealing selfies. "Normally exposing myself like this would feel mortifying and inappropriate to me but given what I've been seeing online and knowing the way young girls and boys are affected by what they see, well, I feel moved to do this."
She then goes on to call out social media for propagating unrealistic body (and just plain life) standards.
I'm not judging the people that want to portray themselves as beautiful, organized, perfect outfitted and skinny. (I mean I love to scroll through an organizers Instagram.) But what you see on people's instagrams and Facebook is never the whole picture. People that post photos of their bodies and faces online, have almost always taken about 9 photos in hopes of getting that perfect angle, that perfect look and then they filter it. Then you see it and you think "wow she's looks amazing", meanwhile the girl that posted it is frantically checking her "likes" and comments. I've done it myself. We are all guilty.
Given this little platform that I have, I just want to encourage young people to take themselves out of this cycle the best they can.
I'm a 35 year old woman. I'm in good shape. I can fit in a sample size sometimes. I've had a three abdominal surgeries. An appendectomy when I was 12, a tubal ligation (look it up) when I was 33 and a C section at 34. If you look at the photo on the left you can see my scar. These photos aren't filtered and if I tried really hard I could make my abs look perfect and then post it online and make a bunch of young girls feel like shit about their own abs. But my abs can also look like they do on the right. I'm presenting the whole picture. I carried an over 8 pound baby for what felt like 16 months. I'd say I earn both of these shots. Excuse the lengthy message. But all you social media devotees know that life online can be adorable and funny and connected and it can also be a manifestation of deep insecurity and faux perfection. In my opinion we are beautiful when we are kind and empathetic and curious and laughing. Explore the world. Get off your damn phone. Spoken like a mom right? Ps. This is a message to myself too.
Carlton's body-positive message of stripping away the bullshit of social media and unplugging from unrealistic images online is a familiar one as of late. Perhaps most famously, Instagram star Essena O'Neill deleted thousands of photos to protest the negative cycle of validation and insecurity that Vanessa Carlton writes about above.
"Social media, especially how I used it, isn't real," O'Neill wrote to her followers at the time. "It was never my conscious intention, but I deluded a lot of people."
Perhaps with enough people getting real about these issues, fewer people will feel the pressure to walk a thousand miles (sorry) on the treadmill just to meet the standards required for Instagram validation.