This post is part of a series called "my relationship with fashion", talking about self-esteem and mental health related to fashion and style.
A couple months ago, Pato (if you’re reading this, ILU!), who is a trainer in NLP (Natural Language Processing), made me go through a test to figure out my representational systems. Turns out I’m mostly visual and kinaesthetic. I remember him vividly, closing his eyes and saying:
“Of course, that’s why you prioritize being comfortable when it comes to clothes”.
Me? Comfortable? I’d spent all my life repeating like a broken record “suffer in the name of fashion”! His words blew my mind because when I got down to thinking I realized that I indeed put comfort at the top of my priorities. I’m all for dressing for the occasion; not in terms of “is it a formal/casual event?”, but in terms of the kind of activity I’ll be doing. If I know I’m going to commute for a long period of time and that I can expect to be standing at least half the time, I choose footwear that is comfortable enough to stand in. If I know I’m going to be walking a lot, I choose sneakers without a doubt. On the contrary, if the occasion is dinner and I know I’ll be commuting by car then I can afford the luxury of wearing a pair of high heels.
All of this got me thinking about my relationship with social media and how it sometimes gets in the middle of all this, making life a lot harder than it is supposed to be. Here’s where Instagram comes into play, the app I love so much to hate.
I go on board as soon as Instagram got released back in 2010. I was coming from Lookbook.nu, a platform where we all used to upload our looks but some of us were tired of because (and gimme a high five if this sounds familiar to you) usually the most famous girls in the app were white and shot outfits they oooooobviously weren’t wearing out because they were too over the top. I wanted to see what people were really wearing. Give me all your noise-filled spontaneous shots you clearly asked your friend to take of you in a hurry. After all, this is what fashion blogging was all about up until 2010.
Instagram came to change the rules of the game and the algorithm quickly learned what the majority wanted to see: white, thin girls wearing impossible outfits swearing they were just out buying groceries. Just a short while later making a career out of fashion blogging was possible, even powered by Instagram, to the point the app left blogs to collect dust for many years to the point we ALMOST forgot about their existence whatsoever.
What happened next? Well, we’re seeing it already.
It’s hard to keep up with the pace of social media, and those who don’t jump onto the trends wagon early enough end up losing the benefits of an early ride. 2 years ago photos were king; now it’s video. 1 year back longer videos were reigning on YouTube; now younger generations can’t keep up with anything longer than 15 seconds. If you’re not making videos today, the algorithms don’t really care for you and your hard work ends up getting buried under the neverending flow of other content. The message from the industry is clear: you’re not enough — you’ve got to be original, unique, you’ve got to niche down enough to make yourself a nice product for an extremely strict audience.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I’m tired of turning myself into something people can consume. I’m tired of turning into what my audience wants to see. In the past, I’d keep dressing up in a million prints because that’s what people wanted, even though most of the time I would not even feel comfortable in those mix & matches. Yes! Some of the photos you’re seeing in this post are from outfits I didn’t feel great in, but I’d wear them anyway because I deemed them more interesting than my fandom T-shirts + blue jeans looks.
I’m embarrassed to admit that, even to this day, I still carefully think of what I’m going to wear when I go out in case I decide to take a photo for Instagram. I lose way too much time playing mix and match with combos I don’t really like because OBVIOUSLY! I’m trying too hard to be someone I’m not. The same thing happens when I decide not to put on make-up: I automatically think “this is a no photos day” as if not wearing any makeup meant I don’t get to have my picture taken for social media!
I’m tired of taking part in this game.
I know what I have to do to “make it” on each app. I know the outfit I should wear, the type of videos I should be doing, or how complex or not a caption has to be to keep people’s attention focused on me. I know that the prettier and more polished me and my life look like, the better my numbers will be.
But I’m tired of playing for algorithms that are extra cruel on feminine people — because it IS different for women online (although this is a different story, probably a different post?).
I’m aware this sounds like a rant post from a girl who is frustrated she didn’t make it as an influencer “because she didn’t try hard enough”, because yessss, you even have to bear the weight of being the only one responsible for your “failure” instead of realizing there is a whole system supporting only a small percentage of people. The truth is… I’m so tired of seeing friends getting frustrated because their hard work isn’t paying off. I have friends working a 9-5 who put the extra hours and work into something that is not giving anything back to them just because they’re not pretty enough, thin enough, white enough, even rich enough. That mentally destroys you — after all I let Instagram fuck up with my mind for almost 11 years!
Today I decided to wave my white flag because I want to go back to when this was just a harmless hobby, something for me to enjoy after hours. I want to get excited about dressing up and writing again. If something comes up while playing around, great! But let it happen while I am my most authentic self and enjoy the process.