Is Social Media Making us More Superficial than Ever?
As I was scrolling through Instagram for the thousandth time today, I realised how incredibly beautiful everything was. Granted that here I was, sitting in front of a computer in trackies with a messy bun working on uni assignments, so I wasn’t exactly feeling my most attractive self. However looking at these pictures made me feel ashamed that I dared to go out in public with no makeup on, that I wasn’t wearing a photo-ready outfit, or sipping on a coffee with perfect latte art. And then I had that OMG moment; I am a self-confessed member of the social media fuelled ‘beautiful’ generation. If you’ve never heard of us, this is what I mean:
Now ask yourself this:
Do you love taking photos?
Do you love arranging the objects of the photo to make the image look better?
Do you love using filters and editing photos to make them look even better, before sharing them to social media?
If you answered yes to the above questions and identified with the Instagram bro, then you are a part of the ‘beautiful’ generation too, welcome! That’s right, we are obsessed with making everything in our lives just like an Instagram post; as perfect as can be.
So what exactly does it take to be in this generation? Here are just some of the many rules we need to follow.
1. You must only eat perfectly plated meals
We are what we eat right? Well from all those delicately made beautiful meals we’ve been chomping on, we must therefore be beautiful people (right?). There’s also no point in eating a meal if you can’t snap a pic of it, and no one wants to see unappetising food, it’ll put them off their dinner!
2. You must channel your inner interior designer
Gone are the days where our bedspread doesn’t match the colour tone of our bed frame or bed-side table. You can’t take a selfie in front of that now could you, it would be social suicide! To have an Insta-worthy life, we absolutely have to our homes looking 100% styled, from our candles to our laptops, everything.
3. You must not wear your new clothes to show them off
Instead, you should lay them out on a suitable background, accompanied by matching accessories. You wouldn’t want your friends to see you in your brand new outfit after already seeing you wearing it in a photo now would you! You need to build up that anticipation, plus, pictures of just the clothes allows others to imagine themselves wearing it, lifting the satisfaction of all involved.
4. You must colour code your entire life
This applies to the previous three points as well as everything else, to ensure you are living a complete beautiful life, there mustn’t be anything that doesn’t conform to your chosen colour theme aesthetic. However if you come by a challenge, there are always filters that can help!
So we may be beautiful, but are we happy?
Sticking to all these rules and putting in extra effort to ensure we have an Insta-worthy life might not be actually worth it in the end. According to recent a New York Times survey, the effort we go to get the perfect post is actually making us unhappy by taking away our enjoyment of the object of the photo and making us miss out on the experience because we are too busy taking photos of it instead. We think that by imitating ourselves and our surroundings after what we see on social media, we would be content with our now awesome lives, however it seems being within this ‘beautiful’ generation could be doing us and society more harm than good.
But hasn’t society always had these issues?
We know that in the old days they had magazines to tell women how they should look, what they should be wearing and what they should be eating, but has social media made our generation into the most superficial generation yet? Or is everyone being just a tad too harsh on the kids that grew up with an abundance of technology?
Beauty comes hand in hand with jealousy, in which within previous generations, women often attempted to imitate models found in magazines. The negative body image effects associated with the obsession to look like you just stepped off the cover of a magazine has not deteriorated, but transformed to fit this generation’s ‘magazine’. No matter the era, society has always been infatuated with the presentation of a beautiful persona; the social media generation just have more tools available to fuel this perfection obsession.
Instagram’s envy effect is the latest version of this vicious cycle, and is a direct by-product of the proliferation of the ‘beautiful’ generation. The social media age has given us a plethora of platforms to promote our best self, where we only see the pretty version of each other’s lives. However this is proving to be quite dangerous, with society falling into the trap of convincing themselves that what they see on social media are not partial truths, but how others look all the time.
“We curate and manage ourselves into the aesthetically-pleasing and near-perfect people we wish we were, because everyone else is doing it”
This can be explained through looking at the Uses and Gratification Theory, which suggests that despite what generation, this superficial obsession is fuelled through society’s active consumption of the media to satisfy their needs. The motivation behind all of our perfectly arranged images is to gain social acceptance; elevating our social status and receiving approval of our beautiful personas. It is this social acceptance that we attempt to imitate in our offline lives, the driving purpose of our obsession of looking like the girls in the magazines.
But unfortunately our lives aren’t a magazine, or Instagram, and we can’t put filters on ourselves and crop out the imperfect parts. However that doesn’t stop us from trying. If you’re still not convinced at how seriously our ‘beautiful’ generation takes our Insta-worthy lives, just scroll back through this article, you might notice it’s been perfectly colour coded.
Originally published at The Isthmus.