Social Media, without question, has become a significant part of all of our lives, and this morning I had a think about how much it has evolved over the past eleven years, post graduating high school.
It is hard to believe that only a little over a decade ago, our way of life was invariably different to our lives now. I’m not saying that in a “I am so old now”, type of way, I mean that it doesn’t seem like a long enough timeframe, for a landscape to noticeably evolve. Though, I guess the introduction of Facebook, Twitter and Smartphones really changed the way society works. It’s changed the way we share an idea, it’s broken down barriers in regards to communication and it has revolutionised the way we all shop and comsume; social media is now a constant in all of our lives.
THE PRE-BROADBAND ERA
In the pre-broadband era, I remember opening a Myspace account whilst sitting on my friend Ceda’s CRT computer. She had had one for a while and insisted I create one, so I did and I quickly became addicted. I customised it using very, very basic HTML and I vaguely remember some teen angst band like Brand New was playing obnoxiously on my profile for a good two months at the beginning; you know, so people could see the raw and melancholy side me #IWasSoDeep.
MSN was also a huge contender around this time. We’d all jump excitedly on, directly after school, just in case anything cool had happened on the way home. We’d set song lyrics as our status’ for the whole world to see (Read: only really hoping our crush would notice this, when we constantly signed in and out trying to get their attention).
In a way, Myspace and MSN shaped our social lives for the better part of those years, however, the difference between then and now is, it was purely for communication and also, our controlled usage. We were only at liberty to use it when our parents allowed us, it wasn’t in our pocket, because you know, it was still hard enough to connect to internet on an (your families) actual computer.
In the eleven years I have been out of high school, the technology landscape has evolved so dramatically and smartphones have become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life, making it markedly different to the social media I knew as a 17-year-old, back 2007.
Like anything, there are pros and cons. The pros allow teenagers to feel less lonely or alone, because it’s a space where they can interact with people instantly. It also gives them a voice and a way to express themselves, where they would not have been able to in the past. But the cons are, it can also lend to being an unsafe place, because of anonymity and the constant body image comparison – just to name a few.
THE SHIFT IN MEDIA CONSUMPTION
Since 2007, media consumption has shifted dramatically; where I only had to worry about surrounding peers, TV and glossy magazines, teenagers today now have access to the opinions, ideals and images of millions of people instantly. This is on top of the traditional forms they’re still consuming; adding an entire new level of societal pressure.
Through social media, there is the constant exposure to certain beauty standards and cultural ideals; making people feel dissatisfied or look at themselves through critical eyes constantly. In some way, I guess they’re victims to cultural aesthetic – which leads me to my next point.
A CULTURE OBSESSED WITH PERFECT
They now live in a world where the number of ‘likes’ seemingly correlates to popularity, which makes the need to “fit in” exist well past the school-yard. Now, in order to gain the popular vote, they’re compromising their unique identity in the form of creating the perfect images on a huge public platform known for it’s for self-objectification and comparison.
With social media playing such an integral part of our daily lives and everything being accessible from our pockets, we’ve have further become a culture obsessed with the idea of the “perfect” and in turn, vanity validation. To maintain this is physically impossible for everyone.
What sparked me putting pen to paper today (well, fingers to keys, because let’s be real, I am talking about 2018 after all), was seeing a sponsored advertisement on my Instagram Stories this morning, for an Airbrush app. It worries me that photo-editing apps reinforce the importance of body image, and that is so detrimental to anyone, at any age. It’s further creating an unhealthy perception for what is deemed “beautiful” and letting people constantly obsessing over it.
When I think about the timeline of editing, I know that Photoshop and photo manipulation software have been around since the 1980s, but the difference is, they were reserved for professionals which utilised the software on their computers for professional use. This software also didn’t have a singular use like apps do today. Enhancement apps can be used by anyone with a smartphone and it purely has one use; to look better and look like a “better” version of you for only $5.99AUD. There are so many different ones on the market; from creating abs to downsizing your head. They may have different names or uses, but the one thing they all have in common is they all perpetuate an idea of attainable, “perfect” beauty. And that is not okay.
“Now you can be sure all your portraits show only the best version of you” – A quote from the app description on iTunes.
With the landscape having changed substantially in 11 years, it is no doubt that social media will continue to change our society. It scares me that younger generations, who may I add, won’t even know a world were social media does not exist, don’t understand the fact that some people carefully select or modify images of themselves to present the best picture of themselves and their world. We really need to create further education and social media literacy surrounding apps, body dissatisfaction and body image.
Whilst I don’t think the culture of sharing images on Instagram, “selfies” or our lives online need to change, I do however think societies perception of beauty standards and perfection does. We need to move towards a culture that doesn’t over edit or adhere to standards that make us obsess over aesthetics. We need to move towards a culture where men and women aren’t defined by their bodies. Because until then we are giving legs to apps like these.
Image of me: Georgia Farrell @faz_outside