As time and space dissolve in the face of the internet, so do true perceptions. Scrolling through social media such as Facebook and Instagram, we find ourselves bombarded with images that are fantastic, surrealistic, and remind us of what we lack.
Surrounded with such media, either on the electronic screen or in a magazine, we find it difficult to remember what is visible and what is not.
What we see, what we often perceive, are men and women portrayed as gods. Unattainable glossy skin without pores. Six pack abs, perhaps, or perfectly rounded curves. Their bodies aren’t too light, nor are they too heavy, depending on whom you ask. In this era of consumer culture and material values, celebrities and people such as “Instagram models” are often praised and admired for their (supposedly) perfect lives.
However, what we must remember, as individuals in this endless rat race, is that perceptions are only what we view to be true. In this example, our beliefs fall on false grounds. The people we admire as a society can not erase everything. They can’t refine the bad parts of their lives as easily as editing a photograph. They can’t shape and mold every part of their bodies like we see in magazines. As their audience, we do not see the stress, the pressure, or their true selves. They are a magician performing a magic trick for the entire world: we only see what they want us to see.
We must remember that. Why is this so important?
It’s important because we continue to compare ourselves to unattainable goals. Rachel Simmons for Time magazine said it best: “social media has [also] become a toxic mirror”. We look, we compare, we shrink, and we squeeze to match a reflection that does not reflect us as individuals.
Furthermore, materialistic capitalism preys on the insecure weaknesses it creates. Diet culture and trends such as “#fitspiration” are only the tip of the iceberg. There are weight loss pills. There are surgeries. There are numerous advertisements that insist you are not enough – such as Protein World’s infamous “beach body” ads. It is an endless cycle that benefits no one but the profiting predatory companies.
Due to personal experiences, the issue of visibility versus invisibility is close to my heart. I’m guilty of it all. I’ve scrolled through my social media feed, pausing on “perfect” images of the Skinny Girls from high school. I’ve skipped meals in order to obtain society’s “ideal” body. I’ve sucked in my gut while wearing clingy clothing. Attending college only made this problematic behavior worse. Believe me, I know that self-image is a never-ending battle.
Until the companies and Western society as a whole adapt their viewpoints, it is up to us as individuals to enact change. It is up to us to promote the diversity and honesty we want reflected in this “toxic mirror”. After all, the magazines and advertisements serve us as forms of entertainment; we don’t serve them. Until then, remember that you are always enough, regardless of what is visible and invisible to you.
Lillie Busch is a 19-year -old English sophomore student whose poetry has been previously published in Persephone's Daughters and three short stories have been accepted into Germ. Back in 2015, her short story was rewarded an Honourable Mention in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She also plans to launch a body-positive literary magazine in the near future.