|From my own Instagram.|
Appearances are very important to our society. This is why social media thrives so much. We have an obsession with letting others know how amazing our day/food/holiday/workout etc. was. And it's a vicious circle because, oftentimes, we feel this inherent need to do so because we are surrounded by other people who do the same, and whenever they upload, we feel that urge too. Their life looks perfect, so I'm going to upload a photo to prove mine can look that way too. And it goes further than that. It's all about the right filter, and if the photo can get enough likes. Or when you go to your profile, do all your photos work together, do they sit there in perfect filter/crop/subject/style harmony, do they all align perfectly? Social media like Instagram breeds a new form of perfectionist that inhabits most of us who take a liking to the platform. Your success on Instagram is entirely dependant on whether or not you can persuade people that your average, everyday, mundane routine is in fact a continuous flow of perfection; a world where only the best coffee is drunk, the trendiest clothes are worn and the prettiest sights are seen.
I understand this, because I am one such user of Instagram. I'll admit that another's perfect Instagram weirdly instills a sense of competition and challenge in me to be able to achieve the same. And it's hard to do things your own way, careless of other's opinions, of likes and followers. You'll never be completely satisfied because there is always going to be somebody else out there that you perceive is doing it better. And you don't need me to tell you that a little victory like having a nice Instagram isn't going to make you happy or any happier. We all know that, so why do we keep acting like it will, why is that?
Trends in fashion and how they exhibit themselves in our social circles share an effect similar to that of social media platforms, like Instagram. We let our personal style be influenced by people we socially interact with, we consciously (or sub-consciously) make the decision to dress a certain way to blend with our friends, to fit in. Not just socially but visually. There's something comforting to many in a uniform, which is what trends often manifest themselves into. Go to Sydney University and people watch for a bit, and you'll see everywhere the USyd uniform of the season that so many students are attracted to. We become attracted to an image, a type, a style. Similarly to Instagram, we feed into this new form of perfectionism where everything we now wear needs to fit the image we are trying to establish. You can't wear a certain article of clothing because it won't blend well with whomever you are being seen with that day. Or you can't wear something in particular because it doesn't flow with the style you feel the need to uphold.
It all ultimately comes back to this odd importance we place on appearances, even more so our attraction and obsession with labels and categories. The problem is so much bigger than just clothes and social media; our infatuation with labels can be harmful – notably in sexuality, a very fluid affair that can be difficult to pin down in any one category. But labels, as absurd as they are sometimes, ironically are quite an understandable and rational concept. They provide security, comfort, and more often than not, a community.
However, our society is (knowingly) flawed. Its core message of altering or cutting away parts of yourself to fit in to the ever-changing norm is both impossible and limiting. Here's a radical challenge we can all take on: Dress in whatever speaks to you, post what you want regardless of its 'like' possibilities and feel free to identify as as many things as you want. You don't have to restrict yourself to any one specific style. You can be a part of more than one group, you should try and you will grow. The sooner we all embrace that, the better (and happier) we'll all probably be.
// Margot Ana