Women have always been obsessed with beautifying themselves, just think back to Cleopatra’s black eyeliner and Elizabethan hair plucking. And whilst the concept of beauty changes with every generation, the desire to be beautiful seems innate.
Physical beauty is important and there should be no shame in celebrating and promoting our sense of self over social media. But speaking as a millennial who has grown up as a digital native, I believe we should also post our hobbies, dreams and passions, too. This is especially the case if we want to be considered as a multifaceted human being and not simply for how we physically look.
Instagram model Emily Ratajkowski has learned that posting photos of her body, and her “sexy” looks has had an effect on her portrayal of self to the public. She is consistently perceived as the “sexy” woman, rather than a holistic human being.
She wrote in a recent Instagram post reflecting on a photo of her 14 year old self: “I used to like showing people this photo of me at 14, to prove that my body is natural, now I’m a little sad it exists at all… I was just a kid in this picture and I wish the world had encouraged my 14 year old self to be more than just my body.. all that being said I have been empowered through my body and my sexiness, … I have discovered that parts of me are so much more important than sexiness”
Emily Ratajkowski has learnt that being judged on beauty is inevitable. So why not also show other aspects of ourselves. Social media such as Instagram can be a great platform for public expression. Yet, with the pressure to look or behave a certain way online, how authentic are we being when we are posting?
As a Gen Z growing up in the midst of a social media epidemic, I witnessed how my friends and cohort placed a lot of attention on the photos they posted and the social connections and likes they received from them. There seems to be a correlation with this obsession of social media and negative body image. Eating disorders stemming from a desire to lose weight have increased, in particular between the ages of 13 to 18, with anorexia being the third most chronic illness after asthma and obesity.
At a time when one’s self identity is only beginning to form, it is important that teenagers have a greater understanding of how they can be impacted by their own social media posts. Whilst social media should not determine our own understanding of self, we should be brave to always post authentically, rather than feel pressured to live up to certain beauty or social standards.