It’s no secret that we are drowning in idealistic images are constantly circulated on social media. These images are beaten into our head and show us what beauty looks like, or what beauty is supposed to like. But a second glance at the pictures that are aggressively projected into our lives allows us to see that these pictures glossed over with filters and different features. The question becomes: Why? Why do we add filters and obsessively edit our pictures?

The answer to the question is simple: to enhance what is already there. To help it pop amongst the millions of photos and dazzle those who happen to see it. But that leads us to another question: Why does it need to be enhanced? Another simple answer: because in today's society, the real image is never enough.

To get a first hand glimpse at how filters alter perception of beauty, I sent some of my closest friends, both expert editors and Photoshop virgins, a picture of a pink flower that I took in my front yard. I was curious to see if given the opportunity, like so many of us have in our daily life, how something already beautiful could be molded into something extraordinary. So, I asked them to edit the image in in a way they thought it looked best. I was sent back four completely different versions of the same picture. I looked them over in awe: vibrant colors, defined lines, divine lighting. They are all exquisite images. And sure, some may argue that the edited pictures look even better but there’s one thing that the original photo is that others could never be: and that is REAL.

Original Photo in Center. Two Edited Versions on Each Side.

Using a filter on a simple flower may seem innocent and harmless. And on some level, it is. Editing allows us express ourselves, experiment with different techniques and get our creative juices flowing and in the end, make an out-of-this-world product. However, when everything we see is edited, it becomes so much more complicated than that.

When we do and see this are setting ourselves up for disappointment; in ourselves, in others and in our surrounding when we the world does not look the way it does on Instagram. Because of what we see, we set unrealistically high expectations of people and objects that exist, but in reality we are only getting to see the virtually enhanced versions of what is real. In a culture that breeds false realities and praises perfection, how can anyone not be tempted to use filters?

We all do it. We alter our surrounding by creating shadows, adding every imaginable hue of each color, focus points and sharpness. We alter ourselves. We darken and lighten our skin to fit an unrealistic standard of beauty that changes in each picture. We use filters to digitally whiten our teeth and hide our blemishes. We create a virtual reality, one that is “liked” and circulated endlessly around our friends, family and strangers. We filter out imperfections and exaggerate the good features to make our images pop in sea of pictures swirling around the Internet. Ultimately, we highlight and hide different aspects to present a superhuman version of ourselves and of our life.

We are surrounded by beauty. But in this day and age, when we look up from our phone screens and experience the world in a simply pure and beautiful way, we feel nothing because we’ve seen something better online. There is no sense of wonder or awe, or at the very least it is not as common. This mentality is lethal, it rips our understanding and appreciation of beauty to shreds.

Using filters is truly only harmless when we understand that it is just a different lens we use to view the world, not to create better version of what is in our world. In today’s technology obsessed society, possessing this view is few and far between. However, it is vital. The more we adopt the mindset that the real image is enough, the more wonderstruck we will become with this world and the extraordinary people and things that inhabit it.

Next time you take a picture, look at it for what it is and ask yourself is it the original not enough for you? Celebrate imperfections, simplicity and most importantly know that the unaltered world we live in is more than enough.