This is a good read going into the weekend: an article on how social media, particularly Instagram, tends to homogenize the personalities of those who use it. Freya India begins the article by recognizing how image-based media and the influencer lifestyle have changed the way people, young women in particular, choose to present themselves. She calls it “Instagram face,” writing,
It’s that face made up of sculpted cheekbones, big lips, fox eyes and a deep tan; a chimera of sexy, supermodel features. It’s not a natural face. It’s cartoonish, assembled artificially through cosmetics, filters, editing apps and even surgeries, as if girls are endlessly chasing the beauty ideal of their childhoods: an IMVU avatar, or a Bratz doll. Something perfect, inanimate, soulless.-Freya India, It’s More Than Just “Instagram Face” – by Freya India
She goes on, however, to discuss how the problem goes deeper than just superficial appearances. Girls who use Instagram daily develop the same kinds of personalities, music tastes, food preferences, home decor, etc. They lose their individuality and become more homogenous, talking the same, speaking in similar cadences as online influencers, and recasting their desires and interests in accordance with what’s trending.
This problem isn’t limited to young girls, although perhaps for that demographic it’s most pronounced on Instagram. Online personalities influence everyone who consistently digests their content. That’s why, India writes, we’re all boiling into an indistinguishable mush: the Internet is what shapes us, and we’re all getting shaped on it together, all at the same time. She continues later in the piece,
But now, online, similar people pretty much have the same experiences. The “woke” get their opinions from the same tweets and TikToks. The edgy get their sense of humour from the same memes and viral videos. Girls find inspiration for their faces and fashion from the same Instagram influencers. We’re categorised by our personalities and interests, and then served the same stuff, over and over, until all shades and intricacies of our personalities are filtered out.
We are a generation all about empowerment, apparently, and freedom from oppression. We demand to live “our truth” and freely experiment and express ourselves. Yet here we are, allowing these apps and algorithms to dictate the way we look, the way we think, to the point where our personalities are becoming inseparable from the content we consume, the products we buy, the identities that flash up on our For You page. The market is so embedded in our lives that it doesn’t just decide what we like and what we should buy anymore, but who we are.
Spending too much time online, consuming content, shapes our personality and outlook perhaps more than we’d like to admit. Unplugging from the matrix and reconnecting with ourselves and real relationships with other people may bring us back to a sense of individual identity and purpose.