We are in a time where online, and specifically social media, are prevalent to everything. Youtubing can now be a profession and companies who are succeeding often attribute their success to winning online. In a society where you are always available and where opinions, photos and trends can spread in an instant, social media receives a lot of bad press. With people venturing online at a continuously younger age, I don’t think this concern is going anywhere. In fact, influential figures on social media often comment about how they feel a responsibility to promote health and longevity and ‘being real’ over simply promoting the glamour in their lives, so as not to promote a one-dimensional image to their followers.
No question, social media often does glamourize everyday life. If you search the hashtag ‘IIFYM’, you will most likely find an abundance of pizza and pancakes, giving the impression that eating obscene quantities of this food is both the norm and something to strive for. Likewise, looking at fitness models online, you will likely find endless pictures of shredded abs. In reality, both the IIFYM hashtag and photos of fitness models show a very narrow window, a literal snapshot – millisecond even – of that person’s day. Or, equally as likely, the pictures could be falsely represented. The massive stack of pancakes may be made purely for the photo, or shared among a party of people. And ‘abs’ pictures could have been photoshopped or heavily filtered. You just don’t know. But, while I agree that these representations as the ‘norm’ should be properly presented, would you really search for IIFYM and be seduced by some celery? Would you really follow a fitness model who posted endless pictures of them in hoodies and jogging bottoms?! Sure, the odd picture of a garnish or of your favorite fitness model with no make up on may be a nice ‘reality check’, but you don’t seek celery and hoodies when you search online. So, while I understand what these influencers mean, (and I think it is a good thing they are conscious of how they present themselves and their message), the reality is that without those glamorous pictures, they wouldn’t be an influencer.
The bigger concern for me is, actually, offline.
Having lived in several places in the U.K., and, having lived in Florida for the past two years, I can only say I feel more strongly about this problem now. The way that some people behave in society is awful. And I am not even talking about crime, I am talking about their everyday behavior and the fact that they don’t question that is wrong. As a female in my late twenties, I feel strongly that I should be able to dress how I like without receiving lewd comments wherever I go. I am completely confused as to what these people think they are going to achieve from yelling out such comments, I mean, have you ever heard of a marriage starting from “yeah, he yelled nice tits at me as I walked into Walmart and the rest was history?!” (Side note, I have practically no chest whatsoever, so if that exact comment was shouted at me, I know they would be lying!) But, seriously, other than those people thinking that that is socially acceptable to declare, it is very intimidating to hear, and makes me fear for my safety. It both repulses me and simultaneously makes me feel indignant. Over the past year, I have had notes left on my car, people ask for my number while I am working and men offer to fill up my car with gas. Whenever I relay these stories later on, I am often surprised as to the reactions I receive. “You’re so lucky” or “Bet that made your day”. Well, no, no it didn’t. And lucky?! These comments disturb me as much as the perpetrators’! Since when did we live in a society where making people feel uncomfortable in both professional and recreational settings are not only normalized but envied?! It makes me feel marginalized. I don’t see that wearing shorts, or putting on make up should equate to an invitation of foul comments or suggestions that I am incapable of fulfilling a basic errand.
While I don’t have hundreds of thousands of online followers, to this day, I have received zero abuse, zero lewd comments and zero demeaning comments online. In fact, I have found my Instagram and my WordPress sites to be wholly positive. Apart from, the Dreaming Elegance people (who, let’s face it, irritate everyone), I have only ever had comments of support or questions about a post to find out more. Yet, in everyday ‘offline’ life, most weeks, I am the recipient of some suggestive or demeaning comment. Online, I post pictures of myself in bikinis. Offline, I walk around in business casual or workout clothes (I never even wear just a sports bra or shorts to the gym either). Online, I sometimes present myself in an overtly more provocative way, yet, offline is where I receive the embarrassingly uncomfortable comments. I am pretty strong-willed and pretty resilient, yet these endless comments affect my everyday life. I often choose not to wear make up on the weekends and don’t brush my hair as I just don’t want the comments from these people.
Sure, online influences are only becoming more salient, yet, just as there is the constant reminder to live your life offline too, we also need to address how offline behaviors are just as, if not more, problematic than online. For someone to question their safety, and to feel uncomfortable wherever they go, is just ridiculous. We should have gone past this. After all, technology is evolving at an exponential speed, shouldn’t society be keeping pace?