Recently, I’ve been tagged on Instagram in a few things in which I’m supposed to take a selfie and either do or explain something that makes me feel beautiful.
Lately, my general reaction to that is to put a beer in my hand, snap a shot, and respond with a quick and facetious, “Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder.”
Taking things seriously is sooooooo #Instagram these days.
This strange pattern of #reflection has been plaguing the platform since its very beginning. The pattern of images, phrases, hashtags, usurping common motivational quotations, indulging in dramatic mountainous self-portraits, #nailart toes in ocean sands, wind-blown hair, the ubiquitous thigh-gap photos and sometimes just utterly indulgent and blatant narcissism is growing weary.
I’ve read Mary Oliver’s stunning quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” so many times that the genuine beauty and profundity of that statement has dwindled into an eye roll and an unfollow.
The use of these words and tags is creating a larger myth of portraying not the person that we are, but the person that we want to be.
I’m guilty of buying into this myth myself. I’ve hashtagged gratitude, authenticity, love and happiness a hundred times. I’ve taken pictures of a thousand mountainsides and sunsets and attached quotes that could be thrown onto another hundred thousand accounts and fit in without a hiccup.
That’s a big problem. Language is not meant to be static. Art is not supposed to make us comfortable. And the conformity of inspiration and self-aggrandizing via social media has become increasingly demanding on the feminine side of things.
There’s no doubt in my mind that men aren’t being tagged by each other and requesting an explanation of what makes them feel strong and beautiful. (If you’re curious about the juxtaposition of gendered social media, check out the account @brosbeingbasic and it’s automatically clear that the joke is on us, ladies.)
How much are we really indulging? Take a look at some of the following numbers:
#Gratitude has 1,426,439 posts and counting.
#Authentic has 2,201,676 posts and counting.
#Thankful has 10,749,765 posts and counting.
#Happiness has 29,849,218 posts and counting.
#Selfie has 244,260,089 posts and counting.
#Beautiful has 257,674,987 posts and counting.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it reminds me of the experience of loving a song, playing it repetitively, then finding over time that all the meaning and love is lost. You skip over that song—the thing that once moved you deeply–because it’s become dull.
Our lives are not something to skip over. Our language is not something to be taken for granted. All of those words that we’re over-using have great and tangible meanings for each of us.
From here on out, I’ll be tagging and chronicling #thehoneststuff in my life. Paying bills. Feeding pets. Walking to work. Buying groceries. Being human. I welcome anyone to join into a small online space where—for just a quiet moment—we can share in the things that simply are.
Continue being grateful, feeling beautiful, indulging in the occasional selfie, and authentically experiencing happiness—share those things. But honor the true parts of yourself as well. Disarm yourself against the myth. Show us your edges.
For as the great Edgar Allen Poe once said: “There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.”
Be well and stay true, friends.
Author: Nicole Qualtieri
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own