On growing up in the digital age

Instagram, TikTok, BeReal. Originating as a means of authentic communication to share original content between the user and the rest of the world, social media apps like the ones mentioned have since become largely monetized, producing unparalleled creativity and expression.

Even though the increased information-consumption levels have led to the most productive period of human progress which mankind has ever seen, our generation’s greatest advantage has also introduced another area of major social concern. 

The digitized nature of our daily lives exposes us to information on the extremist ends of the spectrum—a casual scroll through Instagram’s explore page reveals appalling images of war and effects of climate change in one post and the most attractive faces and bodies to exist in the next. 

With social media allowing ease of access to sharing more aspects of our personal lives with others, there comes an innate desire to present visually attractive facades. While physical solutions like Botox have become increasingly normalized due to their affordability relative to traditional cosmetic surgery procedures, digital alternatives provide the most efficient and attainable results within social media. Visual alteration apps such as Facetune, whose tagline when it first went public in 2013 being “Get that Insta-worthy picture every time!” have significantly skewed our perception of beauty and in turn, increased negative self-image in individuals of all backgrounds, with POCs and bigger-bodied individuals in particular. 

Social media algorithms also encourage the posting of such enhanced selfies and photos, creating a vicious loop of beautiful faces in exchange for social and monetary merit. It is now possible for individuals to make a sizable living off of catering or influencing a target audience. Though a good portion of these influencers possess exceptionally attractive appearances, the creative niches range extensively from which digital creators can choose to curate for their living.

Such a wide array of entertainment can make consumers fickle, leading creators to take morally questionable routes in a desperate attempt to maintain their digital prominence. From copying environmentally detrimental trends like the revitalization of disposable cameras to the plagiarization of mannerisms and cultural media, staying relevant in the digital age requires the regurgitation of the same thoughts and looks of every other individual around the same age group. 

Of course, everybody wants to feel unique to themselves and to those around them, hence the demand and cultish following of microtrends. However, our dependence on the algorithms developed by fiscally driven corporations only leads to a false sense of unique individualism. Any attempt to deviate from the norm is an opportunity for ostracization; paranoia, the only party which nobody FOMOs. No one is special, and your thoughts are not your own. It’s a grim world out there. And it’s ours.