Challenge Conformity

Changing with Cider
Made with Canva
Made with Canva

When I was growing up there were shows that always had certain types of people: jocks, nerds, preps, goths and outcasts. As a little kid, I believed I needed to stay to one of the boxes portrayed on the shows. As I got older, the characters became social media influencers. Social media has had a huge grasp on teenagers, and it only worsens the current need to belong in modern day culture. Therefore, making some feel overwhelmingly confined. 

Social media, especially TikTok and Instagram, has a vital influence on the current generations of teenagers. It’s where most of us are introduced to new trends and lifestyles. The two apps are a problem to me specifically, because it is so easy to get lost in the lives of other people⸺often people the user doesn’t even know well. The algorithms on these apps are a tremendous part of this, as they understand who the user is, and then it feeds them one specific type of content. There might be a few outliers thrown in to create a sense of variety, but in reality there isn’t much diversity.

I don’t use Instagram as much as I do TikTok, and when I am using the app, it’s often just to see my close friends or amateur poetry. Nonetheless, I’ve still heard from people close to me that Instagram contributes to the same issues as TikTok, specifically in regards to showing its users a category of videos and photos to make sure they are stuck consuming the same content. The most popular category I’ve come across is the “clean girl” aesthetic, where people are always practicing self care, have tons of hygiene products, eat healthy and always look neat and clean no matter what. Of course it seems great at first, but it can easily become unhealthy when it becomes so confining that it controls a person’s life. Many of these influencers are so obsessed with having a certain image that they won’t do anything that doesn’t fit into their aesthetic. Not only is that tiring for the influencer, but it is also damaging to the people watching, as it creates an incorrect vision in their head of the lives of these influencers.

TikTok is the app I’m more familiar with as I redownloaded it over the summer. After taking a break for well over half a year, I started using the app again. I found myself criticizing a lot of the content and trends I saw. Something I noticed right away was the similar content I kept getting. I know the algorithm is meant to recommend related videos, but it felt like every video was the same. Because the same type of content is being viewed over and over again, there is no variety and it leads the user to feel the need to act and look a certain way. If you aren’t minimalist you have to be “coquette,” or “grunge,” or something else on the list of hundreds of different aesthetics. The internet makes it seem like you must be this exact thing and not stray away from it at all. 

I know I struggled with the idea of fitting in and I still do from time to time. It’s this need to not be different or judged. I felt pressured to mold myself exactly into the people on my phone, and I needed to suppress things about myself so I could fit into the right place. It’s exhausting and only does harm to people. There’s nothing healthy about constantly caring about how you appear to people. I was just depriving myself of things I truly enjoyed because it wasn’t always normal. I wasn’t letting myself experience all the good things life had to offer. I felt ashamed for having simple joys. Looking back now, it was ridiculous. 

I’m starting to let myself enjoy things just because I like them now. I like wearing different clothes someday, but I have a concrete style I’m comfortable in. I enjoy reading and writing. I love poetry. I like doing my makeup. I like being a normal person who has their own hobbies. It’s as simple as that.  I don’t like any of those things because anyone else does. They’re my own interests. My friends don’t force their hobbies onto me, and I don’t force mine onto them. We share some things, but there’s no need to be exactly the same. I’m still close with them all nonetheless, so why should it matter? 

My overall advice to anyone reading this is simple. Let yourself be you, no matter what. Sure it’s nice to feel a sense of togetherness, but that doesn’t mean you need to fit a box perfectly. Let yourself have free will and explore the amazing person that you can be. Bottling yourself up only brings sadness if you aren’t being your true, honest self. People will like you simply because you are the person you are meant to be. Don’t hide yourself from others, and especially don’t hide because of your fear. In the end you’ll just be doing a huge dishonor to yourself. Enjoy the person you are and the life you’re living.

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