Everyone who has had a social media account of some form can say they’ve “done it for the ‘gram” or “the snap” or “the vine” (RIP). As a generation of content creators, we are constantly seeking to share the best, most interesting, or funniest footage, regardless of the platform or your personal goals. The common thread here, however, is that whether it’s a funny snap story, an outrageous YouTube stunt, or a perfectly arranged Instagram of your avocado toast, each of these posts are constructed, artificial, and seeking a response or validation from an audience. Much of this is due to the quantifiable element of “likes” or “followers” that embodies social media.
Now, you may say that historically other types of media such as film, television, music or even books would follow this pattern as well. This indeed is true; however, the line between fiction and reality is much more apparent in classic media formats. With social media, that line gets blurred because the intent of social media is to depict a snapshot of one’s real life, even though posts on social are often just as far from reality as a blockbuster film.
As someone who actively utilizes social media, I can attest to this. As I’ve shown in my posts prior, I have absolutely taken photos of my meals at inappropriate times contorting my body to get the perfect angle or lighting (*cough Le Bernardin*). After all, who hasn’t used a flattering filter to help blur those pesky blemishes? It’s a very common phenomenon, but one that should be addressed. We must acknowledge social media as a platform for artifice as much as we interpret mainstream media as contrived and fantasy.
I have theorized that young women in particular are more susceptible to body image issues and insecurity due to social media, as opposed to mainstream media because of the perception of attainability that social media produces. It’s easy to write off comparing yourself to celebrities or models as a matter of their extensive team of makeup artists, airbrushing, and celebrity trainers. Because social media bombards you with content from and of your peers, it becomes more complicated. Not only are you comparing yourself to Hollywood, but now you find yourself making comparisons to something that can be perceived as reality because it features your friend or your classmate. What's often forgotten is that they too likely have access to airbrushing and photo distortion at their fingertips. Moreover, there is also the issue of blatant content theft, which has become not only popular, but easily executed. Once a joke is out there on your Twitter, anyone around the world can take that and share it as their own, reducing the authenticity of online content even further.
Now, I’m not here to set out on a conquest to end this kind of behavior, but rather to illuminate its prevalence and the resulting consequences. From the beginning, my mission with this blog was to speak as candidly and honestly as possible and without acknowledging this particularly problematic and prominent aspect of online media, I would be doing everyone, including myself, a disservice. Media, whether it's in the form of text, video, social or photo, for better or worse, is constructed and that mustn’t be ignored. Live your life, online and offline, but remember to tread lightly, as everything is not always as it seems.