So you’ve heard people complain about how us millennials are narcissistic selfie-takers who spend too much time on social media.
And you’ve probably countered with (or at least angrily thought) something like “young women are allowed to like themselves! If posting selfies and photos of their lives on Instagram makes them feel great, let them do it!”
At the same time, you’ve also heard about the unrealistic nature of social media, and how everyone’s perfect-and-happy instagram posts can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, self-comparison, and major FOMO.
And you probably agree with that.
So how can it be both? How can social media be both unrealistic and empowering? And should we feel bad about using it, especially if our instagram feeds are prettier than our real lives? Is having a pretty instagram unfeminist?
I think the answer is no. No matter how often or rarely you use social media, and no matter how realistic or curated it is, I don’t think you need to feel bad. Let me explain why.
In my mind, social media feeds are like makeup. Does the original motivation behind makeup contribute to dumb societal ideals? Yes– it promotes the idea that women should have flawless skin and impossibly defined features in order to be beautiful.
But many women, when you ask them why they wear makeup, will say something like “because I want to” or “it makes me feel good” or “it’s fun and a way to express myself.” Are they still participating in an activity that promotes patriarchal expectations about women? Well, yes. But they’re reclaiming it. They’re wearing lipstick because they freaking want to wear lipstick. And that’s where the empowerment part comes in.
If you’ve ever seen a viral instagram video of one of the world’s thousands of magician goddesses (read: beauty bloggers), you also know that makeup has evolved into its own sort of art form. It requires skill, and practice, and technique. And the outcome is really freaking impressive.
I’m not saying that having a pretty instagram account is the same as being a professional makeup artist. But there are a whole genre of bloggers and photographers and professional instagrammers who make a living off of perfectly curated and beautifully planned feeds. That level of personal branding is its own kind of art form, too. And art doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic.
In summary, wearing makeup doesn’t mean you’re lying. And posting cute, smiling photos on Instagram when you’ve had a terrible week isn’t lying either. They’re good and bad in multiple ways, but so is everything.
The point is, it’s okay not to live a 110% ethical and feminist life. It’s okay to have a social media feed that only showcases life’s nicest moments, to wear a full face of makeup each morning, to shave your legs, etc. etc.
What’s most important is that you ask yourself why you do these things, and you try to motivate your actions from a place of “because I freaking want to” instead of “because I’ll feel bad about myself if I don’t.” In the end, feminism is about making whatever choice you want to make, as long as you’re conscious about why you make it.
image by Anna Thetard