Carolyn Stritch, a 32-year-old blogger, pulled off a hoax. Photoshopping herself in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, she tricked more than 190,000 of her Instagram followers to believe that she went to Disneyland when, in fact, she had been at home the whole time.
This seemingly harmless experiment reflects a larger picture of the realities in the digital age: an ability to distort reality for the eyes of the mass public. It is a known fact that the digital world inherently differs from our physical realm—its ability to represent the complexities of our lives is limited at best. Could digital technology and its facile propagation through social media be numbing our senses about reality, especially when it targets emotionally vulnerable teenagers?
A phenomenon called Facebook depression is one such piece of evidence; more time spent on social media outlets statistically correlates to low self-esteem and unhappiness. That is, the more we expose ourselves and limit our vision to the positive milestones of others, the more we normalize an “all-high” life. And it is understandable, because—let’s face it—most, if not, all of our Instagram feeds are a culmination of carefully selected photos of the most aesthetically flawless pictures accompanied by the wittiest captions. Who can deny that these fail to represent even 1% of the mundane chores and ugly breakdowns of our true daily life? When we compare the entirety of our lives to the pinnacle of others’, we become complicit in our own misery.
Social media’s standardization of unrealistic beauty among us paints another unsettling picture of social media. For many, it is second nature to tap on our phones with a few effortless clicks that magically slim our waists, enlarge our eyes, and clear our blemishes. In particular, given the impossibly narrow standard of beauty espoused by the Korean society—pale, white skin topped by a sharp-cut V line and an unusual obsession with double eyelids—tools that expunge every flaw become devastatingly toxic. It leaves no room for diversity and pressures all into a cookie-cutter model of beauty.
The ability to fantasize has always been a part of who we are. As we dream of becoming something we are not, we challenge ourselves to shed off our old skin and become the best version of ourselves. However, new avenues of digital technology have infiltrated reality in ways we had never expected. Perhaps now, we are losing our footing amid the overwhelmingly fictitious world of our own creation. It’s time to own our social media instead of remaining mere slaves to its unrealistic whims and demands. Social media can be more than a competition ground spurring gossip about who lives the most lavish life—it can be a remarkable avenue through which we share our meaningful projects, candid smiles, and beauty in being our genuine, flawed selves. After all, our lives are authentic, complex, and free of the swing of a cure-all wand.
Featured Image: Hannah Kim (’19)
– Janie Do (‘20)