With the rise of blogging, we began to see women who did not fit the norms. Height or weight were no longer a determining factor and social media began to fill up with makeup and hair tutorials, ‘outfit of the day’ posts and skincare routine videos. Women of all shapes and sizes began to partake in what initially seemed like a beauty revolution. The masses were taking back their right to feel beautiful. This supposed shift in attitude meant that fashion and beauty no longer belonged to celebrities with armies of stylists and makeup artists, but to the public.
This was the exact appeal of fashion and beauty bloggers. They were relatable. They were ‘real’ or ‘undoctored’. Due to the ease at which someone can get started in the blogging world, these new fashion sites emerged just as advertising reached its peak of its obsession with unattainable beauty, and the immediate reaction to it was a sigh of relief. It was time to redefine what it meant to be beautiful, to decide for ourselves what we wanted to look like. However, brands soon caught wind of the attention bloggers were receiving and began to sponsor them to promote their products.
Social media perpetuates the idea that this is real life. These girls who dedicate all of their time to a fitness routine, a healthy diet and creating makeup looks are what we should be supposedly measuring ourselves by. At least with traditional advertising, the distinction between ‘real’ and ‘manufactured’ was clear. We knew the amount of work it took to make Charlize Theron the glowing golden goddess she is in the J’Adore by Dior advert. Social media on the other hand makes us believe that what we are presented with is reality, when the truth is that it is as heavily edited as the Dior advert.
The rare occasions when we are presented with reality on social media is largely met with collective disgust, as the #YouLookDisgusting campaign demonstrated all too clearly. As we cling to the illusion of perfection time and time again, perhaps we need to ask ourselves why it is that we reject unfiltered reality so vehemently. Yet, some do take a stance, such as Australian teenager Essena O’Neill, who publicly quit Instagram despite being paid considerable amounts to advertise products.
So has our perception of beauty really changed? Arguably, it is more complex and exclusionary than ever before. The pretence that the social media figures we have promoted to become beauty icons are more “real” than the models we see in traditional advertising, incites a kind of pressure that was not always there. Our perception of beauty is as much informed by external influences like the modelling industry. The standards we are holding ourselves to are as unattainable, so let’s stop pretending anything has changed.