Do you remember Myspace? I would rush home after-school to sit on the computer to jazz up my MySpace profile, write comments to my friends and upload new pictures. I remember how being on someone's top 10 was a big deal back then, but in 2016 your likes and your follower count is the very thing that people live for. It's a scary thing. Social media's negative impact has created a detrimental effect on self-esteem.
Think about how much precious and productive time is used to perfect a selfie. Teen Vogue's article "Pretty Hurts" describes the sensation as the following: "Selfie culture means you have to be camera-ready at all times." How many minutes do you take perfecting a selfie? How many angles and light options did you use? How much money did you spend on your makeup for the perfect beat? How many minutes did it take you to edit the photo before you made a decision to share it with your followers? Think about the minutes you spend from the creation of a selfie to posting the selfie and if you spend more than 10 minutes on it, then it's already an issue.
"Instagram has given rise to an unattainable beauty standard. It can be a constant scroll of unreal body parts -- the pumped-up lips, the thigh gaps, and the yanked-in waists -- that many women now aspire to have." Our society has become obsessed with likes, especially for young women. Young ladies are going to great lengths to post the perfect picture, and when makeup tricks, photo editing and waist trainers become a burden they are going under the knife to make their cyber image a permanent imprint.
After Kylie Jenner finally admitted to plumping her lips with injections, there was a record uptick in the popularity of Google searches globally for lip fillers. "In 2014, more than 160,000 teens ages 13 to 19 had cosmetic minimally invasive procedures, such as chemical peels, injectables and laser skin resurfacing, and more than 63,000 had surgical ones, such as nose reshaping or breast augmentation," according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
When Kelly Mayhew, a BET employee, died from getting cosmetic silicone injections in her buttocks in a basement in Far Rockaway, Queens, I finally noticed the extreme impact that this was having on the women of color. You can walk around Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods in New York and see the work of "homemade" butt injections. Black and Latina women are subjecting themselves to an increased risk of mortality to meet the standard of cyber beauty that they see their favorite Love & Hip Hop characters flaunt on "the gram". Not having the funds to get the best Beverly Hills doctor, these women are making Craig List appointments to alter their image.
But is it really just about the "likes"?
Well, there's money in the business of having many followers. It's an easy way to get paid and become famous with just one click. BET's "The Westbrooks" docu-series followed India Love, a 20-year-old whose two million and counting followers have linked her to famous love interests, got her in magazine centerfolds and closed deals on brand endorsements. Her popularity has even catapulted the careers of her four sisters. Who wouldn't want to lay around in nice clothes, get glammed up everyday, host a party now and then, travel the world and get paid for posting about it? Sign me up! It looks glamorous but those Insta-famous faces seem to be the most insecure to me.
But what really bothers me is that the same women who make money from the very body and face that they alter for "likes" are the same ones who say they want to create programs to empower women. In an interview with Global Grind, Lira Galore shared, "I'm really good at beauty and makeup. It's a big part of our whole lifestyle now. It's one of the ways I plan to help women fix themselves so they can save money. I want to teach women about being confident and keeping yourself up, and I'm so ready to ride for my women."
A tube of lipstick won't help women's self-esteem. It won't fix how they feel about themselves. You can't mask the pain or the ugly away with contouring or a new set of lips. Beauty starts within and the only way to fix this obsession of "likes" is to begin to detox our lives from negative imagery. Here are some tips for learning to love our natural selves and not our cyber profiles:
1. Take a social media hiatus. Step back and plan a quick withdrawal from all things social media and focus on what's happening in real time. Learn how to cherish each passing moment and each memory without wanting to share it with your social following.
2. Keep track of the time you are spending on social media. If a hiatus is too drastic, then learn how to limit the amount of time it takes for you to beat your face and take your photos so that you can have more time being productive.
3. Start following people who promote positive and natural beauty. Stop filling your feed with superficial people and things. The more you consume negative imagery the more impact it has on your well-being.
4. Give yourself a product-free day. Devote a day to be make-up free and embrace your natural beauty. You can have a natural beauty brunch like Kim Field's hosted for the Housewives of Atlanta cast.
5. Limit your use of editing software and tools. Post a picture of yourself without filters and image altering. You'll start to like your image the way it is and that confidence will shine through.
6. Don't fake your way to a check. Lastly, don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself to keep up with the Insta-famous. Those who are making a living off of their following have been building their brands for years now. Making permanent changes to your body in hopes of getting a check is not the right move. Be authentic in what you do and you will naturally grow a following that may lead to paid opportunities.
February is a month that we celebrate being loved and loving someone else, but don't forget the most important thing and that's to love our selves.