Earlier this month out of nowhere came the “How Hard Did Aging Hit You Challenge” that flooded Instagram and Facebook. The game, better known as the “10-Year Challenge,” couldn’t have been easier: Simply post two photos side by side — an early profile photo from 2009 next to a recent one — as proof positive of how you’ve aged. Or, in many cases, miraculously not aged.
It was fun to watch, especially considering how good many of my friends looked. I posted on their feeds. “Ageless!” “Gorgeous X2.” And, “Which is which?” The whole exercise seemed harmless, if a bit self-involved, despite some concerns about privacy. But as the photos and comments continued to pour in, the challenge soon became a barometer of our views about aging, of how we define beauty, even of what it means to live a purposeful life.
Somewhat reluctantly, I gave in and posted my then-and-now photos with the caption: “Okay, okay.” The feedback was fast and fine. “Hunky then, and more so NOW!” “U haven’t aged at all.” “You are positively ageless, not to mention ultra handsome.” “You wear glasses now. That’s the only difference I can see.”
I didn’t mind the white lies, but I also felt like something of an impostor. Nothing in my post mentioned my Botox injections, my regular use of Retin-A and vitamin C serum. Nor did it note the major life transitions I’d navigated in the past decade: the deaths of my parents, a divorce, the passing of my cocker spaniel, my sister’s cancer diagnosis.
Kevin LaBar, associate director at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, said that two opposing forces might be at play in motivating someone to join the challenge. One he called “age defying.” Positive call outs would appeal to a person’s “pure vanity, with a superficial, narcissistic, ageist bent.” The other he called “celebrating aging,” or embracing an older self, wrinkles be damned. For those people, comments like “older and wiser” might resonate most.
Read the whole story: The New York Times