Breaking news: the social media industry is heavily curated and not all things are #goals. In other news: grass is green.
It’s been a while since I’ve done an ‘opinion piece’, so here, have some opinions. I’ll also turn the sarcasm off for a second.
I do feel incredibly sorry for what has happened to Essena Oneill, and how her experiences have driven her to remove herself from social media. I mean I’ve never heard of her before this but hey, I empathise, I do. Really. Body image issues are horrific to deal with, and finding self worth in how others view you is not a path that generally leads to happiness. It’s shitty that there are a lot of people out there who enjoy exploiting insecurities to make dollah, but there are a lot of shit people in the world. Props to her for removing herself from the thing causing her so much grief.
No props to her for throwing the rest of us under a bus in the process.
In these sorts of situations, when there is a body that leaves the mainstream group because of conflicting interests, it invariably creates a mentality that revolves around ‘us’ and ‘them’. Specifically, one group being those that continue to build a career out of social media, the other being those who have decided to transcend the ‘fakery’. It doesn’t really matter which is the ‘us’ or the ‘them’, neither camp is necessarily right.
But when someone with a large following decamps for personal reasons – which is completely ok – and proceeds to make massive generalisations or throws around the sweeping statements regarding the industry they’re leaving behind – we’re going to have some issues.
Especially when things start going viral.
Because it’s the negative things that the mainstream media vultures latch on to.
In the grand scheme of things, blogging, youtube/vlogging and instagramming are very new professions. Those people who create content with intent to distribute online are put in a little box by the rest of society, and society watches, fascinated. It’s an unpredictable space and no one really understands it unless you are a part of it.
Which is why generalisations and broad, sweeping statements should be avoided.
There is already this massive assumption that putting any ounce of your life online automatically invites people to criticise, and a decent following garners entitlement from the fans to know the ins and outs of daily life. When you add the fuel to that fire with words like ‘fakery’ and phrases like ‘don’t let them trick you’ it becomes very hard for content creators to differentiate between the brand they’ve created and their personal lives. What is too much? What is oversharing? What is off limits? Is there a limit?
If one person begins to shout from the proverbial rooftops about how fake an industry is, it sort of undermines all those trying to make things more transparent. Rules and regulations are put in place to protect those who create the content, and those who are consuming it. There are those who try and get round industry standard legislation, but for the most part, posts that have been paid for by a company are disclosed.
Plus, you don’t have to become a Rolodex of sponsored content. You can always say no to opportunities that feel you don’t connect with, that you feel would increase your ‘fake’ image because you don’t believe in the product or the companies practices. If the guidelines are too strict, there isn’t enough creative freedom and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you can always say no. People have written posts on ways to go about doing it. Saying yes to everything isn’t particularly business savvy, there are a lot of brands out there who will try and exploit.
At the end of the day though, social media tends to treat you how you treat it. If you sit there waiting for the follower count to climb, wrapped up in numbers and figures and sponsorship and endorsements, then yes it will probably feel very fragile and fake and detached. If you enjoy creating, and maintain a healthy work/life balance, then I feel the social media experience is a much happier one.
I think Dodie speaks wonderfully on this issue on her DoddleVloggle channel, with Is social media bad? and covers a couple of things I haven’t mentioned here.
But yes. Point.
When I watched Essena’s video, besides feeling incredibly sorry for her, I saw an emotional young woman talking about her bad experience with a career she thought she’d wanted. She did make some brilliant points, but I feel that she came at this industry chasing ideals that would change her as a person – wanting to become this girl that people noticed – rather than for the love of creating. As cheesy as it is, happiness is not the destination.
Social media is a brilliant tool to connect, share and springboard discussion and change. It also has terribly dark aspects that go right into mob mentality and all areas of harassment – but that’s the same with almost every community, and they are issues present outside the online world.
Human nature compels us to share the positive and move on from the negative – I don’t think I know anyone who has a photo album that contains images that only make them sad, or many people at all who take photos in their dark moments. Social media is just an extension of that. It doesn’t make the bad or the sad any less real, or the happy and the positive any more fake. Generally, we’re all pretty insistant that a perfect breakfast for us one day does not mean a perfect life.
We’re all people, we have flaws.
But I feel that this is an issue that has been around way before social media was even conceived. Maybe social media will play a vital part in breaking apart these ideals and standards and goals. Perfection is generally unattainable, and even if it is, it’s definition is so personal.
I wish Essena well in her endeavours, and thank her for throwing the floor wide open for discussion, and raising some incredibly valid points that shouldn’t be discounted because of the fact she blanket-termed the rest of the industry. The world of social media is heavily curated, but there is still a very strong sense of realness in those creators who try to be as transparent as possible. There are those who don’t give a damn and pose and process and stage, but there are those that are desperately trying to connect and show that those ideals are not goals.
If you want to go and watch Essena’s video explanation then here you are.
I also feel Cassie (cloudyApples) speaks very wisely on this topic too. So here is that.
What are your thoughts on this? Is social media at fault? Is it the users, the curators? The Older Media in general? Is there no one to blame at all?