Monday, March 28, 2016

Living in the photoshopped world

Social media, from
I love browsing reddit.  Although I don't think it's the front page of the internet anymore, I've actually learned a great deal from it, especially the Ask Me Anything (AMA) and Today I Learned (TIL) forums.  Reddit is also a great source for memes, which typically takes me to an Imgur link of some kind.

I wound up on Imgur recently and clicked on what was obviously a mis-posted selfie.  Imgur has the ability to share your photo with the community at large, which allows people to up-vote or down-vote the photo.  In the case of the young lady mis-posting her selfie for the world to see, it didn't pan out too well.  The sum of votes was about -50 or so.  Some of the comments were pretty harsh, including more than a few describing her as "So f$%^ing ugly that you should kill yourself."


I hadn't heard serious talk like that since days on the submarine.

The funny part is that the massively upvoted photos of "natural" people are almost always photoshopped.  It's not hard to do:

And no, you aren't allowed to photoshop your official photo submitted to BUPERS!

I don't see a problem with people using photoshop (otherwise I wouldn't have great memes!), but I do see a few effects it has had on our society, and the young people that are now Sailors.

First, there is an unreasonable expectation of beauty and perfection in almost everything we do.  The girl you date must be a 10 on a 10.0 scale because there are so many 10s on the internet.  Guys need to have the perfect six-pack abs because you see all the shared photos on Facebook of fit dudes from the gym. 

But reality is a bitch.  So what happens when we can't find what we want?  For many, they simply get cynical and poke fun at anyone who doesn't make their cut.  Call it cyber bullying, trolling, or whatever you like.  Anyone who opens up on social media of some kind takes a massive risk of just getting beat down by the internet mob.  Others believe that they are "settling" when they date the not-quite-perfect person, when in the past people would have considered them lucky.

This unreasonable expectation creeps into the Navy too.  Bosses expect a beautiful powerpoint with nice graphics and fancy animation.  It takes bloated staffs too much time to create these, which are then promptly discarded (or worse, saved and used as official "training").  We even photoshop the Navy experience.

Yeah, I do a lot of the lower right photo. From
I think the second thing I notice is that living in our photoshopped world sets up unreasonable expectations.  Life and work aren't pretty, and the world is a mostly ugly, nasty place.  It came home for me when I was on extended TDY to Bahrain and met a local for dinner and we struck up some conversation:

Me: How does the average person live around here with rent prices so high?
Friend: They have 30 people live in a one-bedroom apartment.

Sure enough, he showed me a local news article detailing 26 people who died in an apartment fire.  One apartment burned, 26 dead.  But if you look on the outside, Bahrain is all glitz, glamour and pearls (well, until they razed the Pearl Monument anyway).

The reality of life is that human beings spend a lot of time working to stay in a nice home, with a nice family, able to buy nice things and to have a relatively large amount of freedom.  All of that costs time, money and effort, but people growing up now seem to think it just falls off a tree.  If they aren't happy at work by day two, then something is wrong.  Never mind that happiness might take a bit of time and effort on their part.

We owe it to our next generation to talk about the reality of the world, especially when it doesn't match reality.

- It's easy to tell someone that they're's harder to drag them with you to the gym, or setup your command's policies to support gym time.
- It's easy to say someone is's harder to take the time to tutor them.
- It's easy to write-off a new Ensign as a bad's harder to counsel, guide and mold them into a proper Naval Officer.

But then again, nobody made a statue of a critic.