The Power in a Profile

Have you ever had to write a bio? It’s hard. The easy part is listing your education, credentials, and experience because those are trivial facts no one can question and, at most, cause a harmless amount of judgment. But what about getting down to what makes you you? Like, your [cringe] hobbies. The initial moment of sitting down and writing out who you are in a short paragraph is pretty much the most startling reality of the way you perceive yourself (so this is how I take up space on this earth?). When forced to actually write out who you are, there is little room for inference on the part of the audience; as opposed to the biography you “write” through your social media profile. This of course is done by posting mere photos, captions, and quotes, all the while safely hiding behind cute hashtags. This way you can create scenarios that ambiguously require interpretation from the follower. Yep, just like art! The foggy line between what is truth and what is performance is invisible on social media; in fact this line has become completely obsolete.

Eh, what’s the big deal? So you don’t buy into the inflated (bordering on imaginary) self-image of some. Just don’t follow them, right? Not right. Recent studies are revealing that just isn’t so easy. The images we see in magazines are no longer the main catalyst for negative feelings about one’s self.  It has shifted to the images we see in our news feed, among our followers and friends.  This proves to be more damaging because viewers see these images as “real” since they are of people we know.  Which ups the pressure even more – Shouldn’t I look like the girl in biology?  She is able to obtain this look and she’s not a celebrity with an entourage of personal shoppers, trainers, and chefs.

Not only does pressure heighten, but equating self-worth with appearance is emphasized. Think about the true art of perfecting the selfie. I mean, that takes a lot of quality camera time, most likely in front of the mirror. Not to mention becoming an amateur lighting and photoshop specialist. Not a selfie enthusiast? I’m sure you can at least relate to staging the perfect picture, probably well before the event actually takes place. Or the awkward, nervous silence as you and a friend are smashed together, smiling, posing, waiting for the picture to take – and praying it comes out flawlessly. Because sometimes, there are photos that are beyond repair; even a filter can’t hoist it up to the idealistic pedestal worthy of a post. And then how would anyone know you are fun, carefree, and loved?

We have a culture that places a lot of value in the way we look, the stuff we own, and the way we project happiness. This is nothing new, but now our lives are so public. Gone are the days of personal memories. We must document, tag, share, and post to keep up, to feel included, to feel heard. With an average of 79 minutes spent on social media a day, it would be hard for a person to deny swiping through news feeds as a hobby. Not only does this mentality perpetuate the feeling of never feeling good enough, but it puts people in a position in which they are vulnerable and hungry for the judgment and affirmation of others. At what point do we completely lose our true self to the fictitious character we’ve created, playing a role in our culture’s game of catch up?

Claire Mysko brilliantly acknowledges the power of using social media for change. Think about it: what other platform do you have in which followers are checking in to hear from you multiple times a day? Capitalize on this chance to create a shift. One that moves away from the way we look and moves towards the people we are. Think about your bio, your hobbies. What makes you who you are that isn’t tied to the betterment of your appearance? Focus on doing beautiful, rather than being beautiful. You hold far more influence than you may think.

Post positive. Chances are your “selfie” will feel a whole lot better for it.

Written by Laura LaHue, member of the REbeL Board of Directors and REbeL sponsor at Prairie Star Middle School