How social media aesthetics can stifle authentic living

Don’t allow social media aesthetics to limit your life and creativity. Monday, September 11, 2023. (Illustration by Adam de Lisser)
Don’t allow social media aesthetics to limit your life and creativity. Monday, September 11, 2023. (Illustration by Adam de Lisser)

In the past few years, aesthetic has been a widely used word on social media. There are many popular “aesthetics” that have been given names, such as cottage-core, granola girl and dark academia. Many of these aesthetics are linked to different types of clothing, lifestyles, activities and other niche attributes.

To those who are unfamiliar with social media terms, these names may sound silly, but the different aesthetics are lifestyle choices that many people have taken seriously. There are various positive and negative implications of each, but, overall, the uniformity and structure of these lifestyles seem to appeal to many people. However, there are certainly instances where people take these aesthetics too far. 

One harmful practice linked to these online aesthetics is that many highly specific trends lead to a lot of waste. These lifestyle changes may be alluring, but when people decide to quickly jump from one to another, it is not sustainable. 

Online trends are usually fueled by overconsumption as people throw away items that they feel may not match their new lifestyle and purchase new items that do. 

Another reason these “aesthetics’’ can be detrimental is because they can cause people to limit themselves. People may feel pressured to live a certain way that may not be in their best interest. Avoiding certain opportunities, experiences and other parts of life because they do not match with a chosen aesthetic would be a restricting way to live. 

So, when I get a lot of comments referring to my social media accounts as “aesthetic,” I always appreciate the kind words. But, given the negative implications, I sometimes worry about how I choose to present myself online. I feel this way because it seems like people are acknowledging that I’m trying to accomplish some type of lifestyle goal. I want my life to be genuine, and I do not want to organize my every move according to the expectations of others. 

I believe social media at its best is creative. It can be used as a way to express ourselves and an opportunity to share art, writing  and especially photography with others. I love to see the beauty around me and share the things that make me happy with my friends and followers. My social media is a calculated but also  creative outlet where I express myself.

Although I enjoy posting, there have been instances where I’ve taken it too seriously. I find myself disrupting sweet moments among my friends by trying to get candid pictures, keeping hungry friends waiting as I adjust the plates and utensils of the food between us and leaving past partners feeling hurt by refusing to post certain pictures of them on my feed. These are moments I’m not proud of. As I go forward, I’ll remember that, above all, I want to prioritize my real-life experiences above the life I present online. 

Social media is far from reality, so it is important to me to keep my social accounts at arms-length from my personal life. If I start to take it too seriously, I have to remember that posting is something I do sometimes; it is not a reflection of myself and is nothing more than a public collage of my favorite pictures. And at the end of the day, there are far more important things than aesthetics. 

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