You can feel refreshed even if you go to bed after midnight - it’s all down to your sleep cycles.Read More »
It’s a lost-in-time story of sacrifice. The tale of the Derbyshire village that voluntarily quarantined from neighbouring communities when a pandemic hit in 1665 has entered into folklore. Hundreds died, but their bravery stopped the spread of bubonic plague across the rural hamlets of the Peak District to the cities of Sheffield and Manchester beyond. The village of Eyam has been dramatically thrust back into the spotlight this year, however. The history-repeating parallel between the heroic sacrifice of our 17th-century forefathers and the global response to the coronavirus pandemic has made it an unlikely haven for dark tourism fans. While I find it busy with walkers sipping coffees around a flower-garnished village green on an autumnal day, its dark past hangs like mist over the peaks. The plague spread in September 1665 after George Viccars, a local tailor, took delivery of flea-infested fabric from London. Over the next 14 months, around a third of the villagers lost their lives. The rector of the local church, William Mompesson, was no public health official, but he did devise an early take on social isolation, pledging to stay with his parish if they committed the ultimate act of self-sacrifice. The events are remembered on the last Sunday in August at the Plague Festival. “The idea of quarantine and forming social bubbles shows incredible foresight. We can learn a lot from the stoicism of the people to do the right thing,” says Peak District guide Mark Sweeney.
When I was younger, I thought all witches were like the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. Green, scary, and evil. Of course, I know now that I was wrong. Witches are all around us, and they look just like you and me. (Don’t believe me? Check out these photos.) But while you might imagine that Halloween is the time of year they shine, many witches actually celebrate a different holiday on 31st October. A significant amount of witches celebrate Samhain, a pagan holiday that honours ancestors and spirits, from which modern-day Halloween is thought to have evolved. On this day, it’s believed that the veil between the world of the living and the dead thins. “What I believe the media and film tends to confuse about the Samhain holiday is that it’s less about being spooked by the dead and more about honouring and venerating those we’ve lost,” explains Blue June, a tarot reader. There’s no one way to honour Samhain. “Traditions vary with witches, as that is part of the allure of being a witch,” explains Mysticalcraft Arriana, Keen.com advisor. “Anything goes as long as it has the correct intent, of course.” We asked some practicing witches to tell us what their celebrations usually look like — and it’s not as stereotypically spooky as you think. They connect with ancestors “I light a candle to honour [ancestors] and leave out candy or libations that they enjoyed,” says astrologer Lisa Stardust. She says that unlike Halloween, she’s not trying to scare away their spirits, but to honour them. Some witches speak with these spirits. “An Ouija board is a standard tool to speak with those crossed over,” notes Mysticalcraft Arriana. “Mediation and connecting to those in our hearts is another way to connect. Or you can cast a circle and ask for your Deity’s help,” she says, explaining that each witch has deity they feel close to, that they can reach out to for help and guidance in life. They give thanks In addition to connecting with those who have passed, Live The Light, psychic advisor at Keen.com, uses the day to set intentions that help her welcome changes and transformations into her life. “Remember to give thanks for what the summer months brought as you look to the fall ahead. Finally, give a hug and kiss to your loved ones in spirit,” she recommends. Live The Light says it’s also a good day to eat a favourite food, playing your favourite songs, or share memories with the people you love. Narayana Montúfar, senior astrologer for Astrology.com, does something similar. “I always perform a ceremony in which I express gratitude for all the things that I have learned in the current year, then I write down all the things I want to let go of, and afterwards, I burn the paper with a lit candle as I imagine them going away from my life,” she says. They meet up with their coven & cast election magick Usually Sarah Potter, a tarot reader, professional witch, and colour magic practitioner based in New York City, meets with her coven in person on Samhain. But this year, they’re using Zoom to perform their secretive rituals. “Our coven does different rituals,” she says. “We do magickal work together for the greater good of humanity.” That work feels especially important right now, ahead of the election, Potter says. “I’m very focused on using my magick to ensure that votes are being counted, voting is easier, and the voices that need to be heard are uplifted.” She’ll also be working on “clearing any obstacles preventing votes from being counted, or anything that would stand in the way of getting Trump out of office.” Sounds like a good way to spend the holiday to me. They donate to black cat funds … Pretty fitting, right? These are resources that aim to protect black cats, which are less likely to get adopted than other breeds, due to their associations with bad luck. Potter says she’s going to look into funds she can donate to this 31st October. “I have a black cat and I love her so much,” Potter says. “Since I can’t do what I would usually do, that was something I thought would feel really nice to do this time of year.” They celebrate it as the new year Natalie Mills, spiritual mentor, psychic medium, and author of You Are Intuitive, says that she sees Halloween and Samhain as the witch’s new year. “For me, it has that energetic quality of a spiritual new year,” she says. “It’s become a really potent powerful time of connecting to my spirituality, my ancestors, my loved ones, and also for me calling forward the new energy and the future visions for the year ahead.” And sometimes… they work “I work in entertainment in this facet as well,” Blue June notes, “so I’m usually working up to three separate events on the night of Halloween, reading tarot cards. I don’t get to partake in the Samhain rituals!” But at least she’ll be helping others celebrating their spooky October 31 night. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?We Found Your Halloween 2020 Makeup LookYour Halloween Horoscope Is HereWhat The Full Blue Moon Means For Your Halloween
From ‘Money Heist’ to ‘Los Espookys’ and ‘El Cid’ to ‘Elite’, the popularity of Latin series is booming, despite the subtitles. If you’re a serious streamer, says Annabel Nugent, you’ll have at least one in rotation
The star of ‘Mad Men‘ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ talks to Alexandra Pollard about being a loner, playing horror writer Shirley Jackson and why it’s time women stopped biting their tongues to avoid seeming bitchy
Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking a cross-section of women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period – and we're tracking every last penny.This week: "I am a project manager living in Bristol with my husband, T. We have both been working from home since the beginning of lockdown, which has saved us a lot on commuting. I like working from home but do miss the social aspect of the office at times. I am a qualified social worker and progressed from social worker to my current role, managing a team of family support workers and therapists. I grew up in a single-parent household and I am eternally in awe of my mum raising four of us on her own. We had everything we needed despite being a low-income family. I have always had jobs, since the age of 12 – big up the paper round! I think this has made me respect every earned penny and I probably overthink my purchases when it comes to clothes etc. However I fully believe in enjoying life and am happy to spend money on experiences because life is short and I don’t want to regret missing out on it." Industry: Social care Age: 31Location: BristolSalary: £34,400 + £1,500 yearly overtime for overseeing another project.Paycheque amount: £2,112.24 after pension contribution and student loan (£125 p/m).Number of housemates: One, my husband T. Monthly ExpensesMortgage: £812.36 split with T.Loan payments: Student loan only which is deducted from pay.Utilities: Council tax £134 p/m, water £31.15 p/m, TV licence £13.20 p/m, gas and electric though Bulb £54 p/m, internet £22.99 p/m, all split with T.Transportation: Combined car and home insurance £49p/m, car tax £14p/m, petrol approx £40 p/m, £66.99 annual breakdown cover, all split with T.Phone bill: £10 p/m SIM only. I bought my phone secondhand from giffgaff marketplace a couple of years ago.Savings? £5,500 shared savings with T in premium bonds. £3,500 personal savings in premium bonds, £1,500 of which was a student loan refund. Our savings prior to this went on our honeymoon which was part funded by a credit card which we have just finished paying off. We put £250 each in joint premium bonds per month and £150 each per month in another savings account to go towards either a big cost item/holiday, in which we have £0 currently as used for a camping trip earlier in the month. I put away £250 per month into my own savings. We are planning on pooling our savings for a camper van in the new year which we hope to do up ourselves, as much as we can.Other: 18-month internet contract I set up for my mum at the beginning of lockdown so she could video call family and watch decent TV during lockdown £23.50. £34 p/m MoveGB subscription – considering quitting now most things aren’t running but I have a good price and the online classes are good. £90 annual Social Work registration. Netflix £7.21 split with T. Spotify £14.99 split three ways with T’s family. Local veg box subscription £13.50 p/m split with T. Day One7.30am: Alarm goes off. Stab it quiet and snuggle into my pillow.8am: Get up, shower. Bake some cornbread with green tomatoes. Find weevils in the plain flour and switch to wholemeal and hope for the best. (Note: I nearly never bake and certainly not at this hour, not quite sure what possessed me this morning.) Make a smoothie for breakfast: spinach, banana and cinnamon.9am: Log on for work. 10am: Eat a coconut flour choc chip cookie and cuppa tea.11.30am: Have a catch-up with a manager on another service, it feels nice to offload as it can be a bit isolating being a manager sometimes. 1pm: Heat up some leftover cauliflower and parsnip soup for T and I and eat with the cornbread. It's a bit sweet but decent enough. I buy two pairs of glasses that I’ve had on a home trial from Glasses Direct as my prescription has changed again, £68.50. Also book onto netball circuits for tomorrow evening, £4.2.30pm: Have supervision with one of our therapists, who hands in her notice. Gutted to lose her but I understand her reasons.5pm: Finish for the day, get on the phone to my car insurance company to negotiate our renewal price. Manage to get £87 less than what they initially offered for car and home insurance through sharing price comparisons, ideal!6pm: Do a live yoga class through MoveGB at home.7pm: Make veg fried rice with my beloved rice cooker. Bottle up a batch of kimchi that has been fermenting for a week. Have some with dinner.7.30pm: Eat dinner with T while watching The Social Dilemma. Delete my Insta, probs be back in a couple weeks.9pm: Watch two episodes of the American Office. After initially denouncing it inferior to the British Office we gave it another go and are now obsessed! Eat a choc brownie T got sent in the post today from a colleague he did some graphic design work for.10pm: We both head to bed and research paddleboards to add to the one we already have. Total: £72.50 Day Two7.30am: Alarm goes off. I’ve come to accept I’m not a morning person and never will be. Still have that optimistic alarm though.8.45am: Wake up... Stare at the wall in a crispy eyed daze for a few minutes.8.50am: Ok M’up, M’up.9am: Sit down to my computer with a slice of cornbread and tea.1pm: Lunch, more cauli soup and cornbread. Buy the paddleboard we were looking at last night. We use money we got from letting our house out on Airbnb earlier in the month while on a camping holiday. Eek we’ve known we were going to get one for a while, aside from our car this is now the most expensive thing we own! £529 split with T from joint savings.2.45pm: Friend pops over to pick up some wood for a project.5pm: Finish for the day. Walk to the postbox to post back my glasses home trial while listening to The High Low podcast.5.30pm: Talk to my Muma and plan a visit next week.6pm: Read some of my book More Than a Woman by Caitlin Moran, everything this woman says is just brilliant. Eat a choc chip cookie with a herbal tea.7pm: Go to netball circuits. Half an hour of circuits and half an hour of netball skills, all socially distanced. We’re not allowed to play games indoors at the moment.8pm: T picks me up after the gym and we head to Sainsbury's and buy a four-pack of beer, some southern fried Quorn burgers, some reduced vegan risotto (28p!), lemon cheesecake, three loaves of reduced bread (20p each!), mushrooms, spaghetti, shallots, cheese and jalapeño Mini Cheddars (so good!), tinned toms and tinned beans. £15.938.30pm: Get home and make katsu curry with the Quorn burgers and leftover rice.9pm: Watch First Dates with dinner which always makes me grin, followed by The Office.11pm: Bed. Total: £280.43Day Three7.30am: Alarm...usual ignoring.8.20am: Get up and make a Mexican-inspired carrot soup with black beans. Marmite on toast for breakfast with tea.12pm: Have a short break with choc chip cookie. Apply and get accepted for a credit card for us to use for joint spends so we can earn rewards on our everyday spending. This will then be paid off in full each month which we know we will be able to do, to avoid scary interest charges.12.30pm: New paddleboard arrives, chuffed with it and can’t wait to give it a whirl!1pm: Have a meeting with commissioners. There is a new member in the meeting, it’s not as amicable as our previous meetings and I feel a bit caught off-guard by the sudden scrutiny. Manage to stutter my way through. Catch up with my manager after, who shares that he felt it got a bit rude at points but that I handled it well. 3pm: Lunch with T: soup from this morning and more cornbread. Watch an episode of The Office, fast becoming Dwight’s number one fan. Find myself constantly appalled yet kind of vouching for him.5.30pm: Finish for the day, stare at my pores for half an hour and give them a few unhelpful squeezes.6pm: Drag myself out for a run with T, the prospect of which feels more and more horrifying as winter approaches. Manage a 3.5km gentle jog around the park while listening to The High Low.7pm: We walk to a mate's for dinner with the beer and cheesecake bought yesterday. They live really close which is cool as we can help each other out and share things.11.30pm: Fab evening with lasagne, cookies, table tennis, darts, beers and board games.11.45pm: Bed.Total: £0 Day Four8am: Wake up, catch up on messages and more wall staring. Get up and have a look at what’s been delivered in this week's veg box: onions, potatoes, carrots, kale, leeks, celebration squash and a Romanesco cauliflower (have to google what it is as have never seen such a strange-looking lump).8.30am: Shower and breakfast, Marmite on toast with a cup of lemon and hot water.11am: Coffee and cookie break.1.30pm: Lunch is the 28p bargain vegan risotto which is surprisingly good, with a lemon and ginger tea. 2pm: Meeting about a social value report I am writing for a commissioner.3.30pm: Cheese and jalapeño Mini Cheddars...yesss.5pm: Yay weeeeeekend! Eat a choc brownie and melt into the sofa. Watch a Korean lifestyle YouTube vid from Plan D – a brilliant recommendation from another money diarist...the food, the foooooood. Follow this up with some paddleboard internet surfing.7pm: Make Alison Roman’s shallot pasta with T, another money diary fave.8pm: Eat dinner and start watching Rebecca on Netflix. I read the book during lockdown and the film is beautiful but I think it misses a lot of the feel of the main character in the book.8.30pm: Still hankering for something so put some Quorn nuggets in the oven, because I’m an adult and it's allowed.11pm: Bed! Total: £0 Day Five9am: Wake up, no alarm! Cuddles.10am: Shower and breakfast: beans on toast.11.45am: Get ready to go out paddleboarding.11.55am: 10 minutes of searching for a face mask...every outing.1pm: Spent an hour checking out a few different sections of river. It's a bit windy so settle on one we know well, given the weather. 2pm: Arms are a wreck from blowing boards up then hauling them down to the river with the wind trying to rip them from my arms. 3pm: Had to massively lower expectations about how far we were paddling today. Probably only manage 1km fighting against the breeze but it gives us a nice gentle push on the way back. Starts raining just as we get out of the water and downpours just in time for us being packed away and in the car.3.15pm: Arrive at local pub with a good appetite. Order rose and harissa mussels with chunky bread and chips to share with a glass of white wine. T orders bubble and squeak, pork pie and a pint of Guinness £36.85 split with T.4.30pm: Get home and shower, shattered.5pm: Get a fire going and watch Olive Kitteridge on Now TV.8.30pm: T cooks a French onion miso soup, a fave from an Anna Jones cookbook. Eat it while watching The Office.11pm: Bed.Total £18.40 Day Six8am: Wake up, discover it's really 9am as the clocks have gone back, woohoo!9.30am: Put a wash on and have breakfast: mushrooms on toast. Tend to my plants and read some articles from the Saturday Times magazine. Particularly enjoy a story about a chap called Wim Hof. I make a note to self to try his breathing exercises, which he claims can cure hangovers, next time I’m feeling a bit worse for wear...11am: Hang washing out and clean upstairs while catching up on some High Low podcasts. T tackles downstairs. It means the grim ones are evenly split, bathroom and kitchen.1pm: Shower and a face mask: Glossier Mega Greens. Not convinced if face masks do anything but I like the idea they do!1.30pm: T heads out to get his hair cut and I heat up some leftover onion soup with toast for lunch, followed by a decaf coffee and Mini Cheddars. I eat my lunch watching Plan D cooking up a storm. Make a list of ingredients to get so I can experiment with more Korean flavours.2.20pm: Chop most of the stuff from the veg box into the slow cooker for a veg stew and make a batter for dumplings. Discover I have no baking powder so hope for the best. T makes some powerballs from oats, chia, linseed, honey, peanut butter and cocoa and rolls them in coconut.3.30pm: Settle down to an afternoon of reading More Than a Woman.5.30pm: Scoff half a bag of tortilla chips.6.15pm: Dumplings look like fictional space ships, round and flat. Eat dinner and watch Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year with T, which we really enjoy. Watch part two of Olive Kitteridge and The Bridge on Channel 4. 11pm: Head to bed with More Than a Woman and a passage in the book triggers a sudden onset of anxiety. Spend the next hour googling jobs, I think as a coping mechanism.12am: Eventually go to bed.Total: £0 Day Seven7.15am: Wake up before the alarm still feeling anxious.7.45am: Download a meditation app and do a 15-minute meditation. I’m not sure if it worked but it gave me space to think about what caused the anxiety and reflect on my thoughts and feelings.8am: T goes to Sainsbury’s and buys bananas, granola, almond milk and and two avocados, £5.23. Eat some granola with a cup of tea. Spend some time calling traders from the Green Homes Grant scheme about insulation for our loft but seems they are all inundated.11.30am: Make a round of teas for the office! Tea for me, coffee for T.1.15pm: Lunch is leftover stew with an episode of The Office.5.30pm: Finish for the day.6pm: Yoga class at the studio booked through MoveGB. Feel really good after.7pm: Pop into Co-op to buy a pack of spaghetti. £17.30pm: Get home and make a Thai veg curry with cauliflower rice.8.30pm: American Office.10.30pm: Bed and book! Total: £6.23The BreakdownFood/Drink: £40.56Entertainment: £264.50Clothes/Beauty: £0Travel: £0Other: £72.50Total: £377.56 Conclusion"This is the last week of the month. My spending tends to be payday-oriented, with more money being spent in the first couple weeks after payday, so aside from the paddleboard this is normal for this time of the month. In the first couple of weeks of the month I would be spending a lot more on food. I’ve also noticed that our American Office watching is probably a bit out of hand!"Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Money Diary: An Operations Director On 152kMoney Diary: A Doctoral Student On 17k BursaryMoney Diary: A 28-Year-Old Starting Life Over
I contain multitudes. Or rather, my iPhone camera roll does. If I click on the album simply labelled ‘selfies‘ which the pocket computer I carry everywhere with me has kindly put together, I can go back to 2010 – the year I got my first iPhone and, coincidentally, the year that Instagram launched – and look at close-ups of my face spanning a decade. Selfie stigma, selfie shame, a guilty feeling that I might be a narcissist threaten to swallow me whole as I flick through the 1,472 images. Ah, the light was good that day. Oh, it was weird when we were all using the Snapchat filter that made us look like an extremely attractive dog. You know what, I actually look alright sometimes. Lately, instead of the buzz I used to get from doing this, I find myself zooming in on every image, interrogating every line, blemish and pore. Growing up, I would compare my appearance to the photoshopped photos of models in magazines. Now, I compare myself to the younger version of myself, to the filtered version of myself, and find what I see looking back at me in the mirror wanting. Time for a bit of Botox here? A little filler there? Do I just feel weird about ageing? I keep asking myself. I’m 32 so, of course, it’s obscene to be comparing my face to the 22-year-old version of it. Or has endlessly scrolling past other people’s filtered faces on Instagram and using filters myself – even if only in a tongue-in-cheek way – started to warp my perception of how I’m supposed to look? Much has been written about the phenomenon of ‘Instagram face’ and, particularly, how it impacts cis women. Last year, Instagram said that it would remove all augmented reality filters which depicted or promoted cosmetic surgery amid concerns that they were harming people’s mental health. Studies from around the world (like this one conducted in India or this one from the US) have confirmed that there is a correlation between these filters, body dysmorphia and a desire to get plastic surgery or ‘tweakments’ like Botox and fillers. Be that as it may, while writing this article I found several filters which promise to make you look ‘snatched’ which, in a nutshell, means it will help you conform to the current Instagram beauty standard of pale, smooth skin, high cheekbones, a tiny nose, larger lips and doe eyes. Politicians are concerned too. We know that influencers and celebrities filter, Facetune and alter the images posted by their online avatars but, still, we enter into a cycle of compare and despair when we see them. Last month the Conservative MP Dr Luke Evans proposed a new law which could ban celebrities from posting doctored images without declaring that they have modified them. I never used to feel weird about my face. Growing up, I liked the faces of older women. I thought the most interesting ones were the ones that suggested the person they belonged to had lived a full (if not always happy or easy) life. So why am I finding myself standing in front of the mirror and thinking of ways to stop my own face expressing the life I live? The projection of unattainable beauty standards in the media is nothing new. But something about what started out with that attractive dog filter and is now so normal on Instagram that we barely question it feels particularly insidious. You couldn’t pick up a copy of Vogue and layer Christy Turlington’s face over yours but you can use filters to project a modified version of yourself to the world online. Janella Eshiet is a professor of communication studies at California State University. Earlier this year she published a paper called “Real Me versus Social Media Me: Filters, Snapchat Dysmorphia and Beauty Perceptions Among Young Women”. As she sees it, “Filters on Instagram and Snapchat are fuelling body dysmorphia among young women because many of these filters are now changing how women view themselves.” No longer do we merely compare ourselves to others but to altered, perfected images of ourselves. Of particular concern to Janella is what she calls ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’. The term was coined by Dr Tijion Esho in 2018 and is used to describe what leading plastic surgeons and aestheticians see as the growing phenomenon of young women (and some men) bringing filtered photos of themselves to consultations and asking for procedures to make their real face look more like their filtered face. Increasingly, Janella says, “Women have this notion that they must be perfect just like the filters they use.” Perhaps I am naive but this is more prolific than I had realised. On a recent holiday, I was surprised to learn that several friends were using filters on their Instagram photos. One even uses Facetune on all photos of herself before posting them, even if it’s just on Instagram Stories. As part of her research, Janella interviewed young women from different colleges across the US. She says that she, too, was surprised to learn that young women are increasingly using filters to ‘beautify’ themselves in accordance with Instagram’s beauty standards. “They make you look like you have flawless skin and no imperfections,” she explains. “If you do not feel like wearing makeup or you have a zit you are trying to cover up, some of these filters will do the trick…but a few participants said they would cosmetically change their appearance to look like their filtered photo. A few of them expressed how they loved how the filters gave them fuller lips and one participant said that she did get lip fillers because of a filter that made her have fuller lips – she loved it and got fillers within the next month or so.” We spend so much of our time on the internet now that what happens there is as real as anything we do offline. Social media is indisputably real life, albeit a hyperreal and enhanced version. So it feels increasingly difficult to determine whether Instagram is shaping beauty standards or merely reflecting beauty standards back to us. In 2005, before he bought Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg described Facebook as a mirror to what exists in real life. Fifteen years later, in the aftermath of multiple scandals including, most recently, the question marks over the role of Cambridge Analytica in influencing elections and therefore the makeup of governments across the world, the idea that social media merely reflects reality sounds like a sick joke. If social media is a mirror, then in our politics and our personal lives, that mirror is not only distorted but distorting the ways in which we see ourselves. Where do we go from here? It’s never felt less okay to be imperfect and it’s never been easier to airbrush our imperfections, concealing them from the world. I don’t know. Increasingly unsure of everything – including my relationship with Instagram and, by proxy, with myself – I put this question to Dr William Van Gordon, an associate professor of contemplative psychology at the University of Derby. There is, Van Gordon says, no doubt that filters are fuelling dissatisfaction and dysmorphia. He cites two further reports, one unpacking the relationship of filters to disordered eating and another which spoke to young women in China about how constant comparison with others and with filtered images was impacting their self-image. Both underline the cause for concern. However, Van Gordon notes, we must remember that the desire to alter our appearance is nothing new. “It has an evolutionary link,” he explains. “It’s normal that we try to enhance our appearance whether that’s for forming relationships, finding partners – we do it in real life anyway. So the principle of doing this isn’t necessarily something that we need to be concerned with.” The problem, he says, “is the level of disconnect that there can be between a filtered image and the person’s real appearance.” This is where something called social comparison theory comes in. According to this idea, human beings have always had a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others. Today, though, Van Gordon says that “we are not only comparing upwards – with people who are deemed more attractive or more successful than us,” we are comparing ourselves with perfected, optimised and idealised versions of ourselves. “That,” Van Gordon says, “can have a much more detrimental effect on our self-image because inevitably that version – which is not real – will fall apart.” This is where patriarchal beauty standards and capitalism overlap, forming a dangerous Venn diagram at the centre of which so many of us unwittingly find ourselves. The celebrities – the popstars and actresses – who have long adorned magazine spreads were always unattainably beautiful. Being out of reach was part of their success and, as a trade-off, they were expected to maintain their beauty in ways most of us would never be able to: daily 5am personal training sessions, liposuction, wild diets. But Instagram is a seemingly democratic platform which has sold us all the idea that the self – our own online image – is the key to making our fortune, to achieving success and popularity. Surely, therefore, we have to consider the feeling that getting more likes gives us in the context of optimising ourselves, our lives and our appearances for financial gain: if I looked more like this or that then maybe I, too, could have 500,000 followers, a nice house and a wardrobe full of #gifted clothes. This is something Will Storr writes eloquently about in his book Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed And What It’s Doing To Us. One of the defining aspects of our culture today, he notes, is that “we can be anything we want to be – to win the neoliberal game we just have to dream, to put our minds to it, to want it badly enough.” This message is fed to us constantly from all angles and young women in particular have internalised it wholesale (see girlbosses and manifesting). But, Storr writes, “It’s not true. It is, in fact, the dark lie at the heart of the age of perfectionism…Here’s the truth that no million-selling self-help book, famous motivational speaker, happiness guru or blockbusting Hollywood screenwriter seems to want you to know. You’re limited. Imperfect.” Part of the problem with filters, then, is that they make perfection feel as though it is just within our reach. “I do believe that filters have shaped beauty standards,” Janella says. “Many young women use a beauty filter and notice that their appearance changes (in their eyes, in a good way) and they start to think about the ‘what ifs’… What if they change their nose, or put fillers in their upper lip, etc.” This is reinforced by the fact that doctored images seem to get more likes. An Instagram magazine called Shame Magazine recently demonstrated this in blunt terms. They posted two images of naked women standing in the sea with their arms around one another. In one version, their waists had been made smaller, their bums larger and rounder. In the other, they were undoctored. The altered version got more likes and, therefore, as a result of Instagram’s algorithm, was shown to more people. Janella’s research reinforced this. “Some of my participants explained how they would get more ‘likes’ on social media when they post a filtered photo versus a non-filtered photo,” she says, “so that feeds into them wanting to change their appearance.” Likes are addictive. They fire up what’s known as ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops’ in our brains and make us feel good. Once we’ve had a hit of this feeling, we only crave it more. We also now associate it with being successful and learn to manipulate the version of ourselves we sell to the world so that it will continue to get positive feedback. If you can get this feeling online by filtering your appearance, it makes sense that you’d be tempted to recreate it in real life. Is it the responsibility of social media companies like Instagram to do something about this, to decide where fact ends and fiction begins, to impose laws that distinguish between a bit of harmless fun and what’s dangerous and dysmorphia-inducing? Should politicians step in and make it their remit? That conversation will undoubtedly continue but somehow, while it does, we have to find a way to acknowledge our limits and imperfections, to be not only okay with them but embrace them. The Greek hunter Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool of water, fell in love with it and drowned. Perhaps, like him, we are drowning in the endless stream of images of our own reflection. The detrimental impact that this is having is starting to be understood so perhaps it’s time to turn our heads and look at something else. If we can do that, if we can free up the headspace we devote to comparison, we might surprise ourselves with what we can achieve. Like what you see? 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‘Every single day I witness these tiny little human miracles,’ says Kirsten Hamik
'People come to me to commemorate a death, birth or marriage - something to mark the next part of their journey'
Having freshly harvested a romanesco cauliflower, Jo Jo shows you how to cook this into a stunning Chinese stir fry. Sharing her mum's family recipe, Jo Jo uses chilli, garlic and pork belly.