By | November 12, 2023
The Curious Case of the Internet's Obsession with Aesthetics

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of her campus.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited by: Ajitesh V.

Imagine waking up one day feeling lost and wondering if you feel like yourself or if you want to imitate your favorite fictional character who created your inner rebel or that movie protagonist who made you sob so hard. Cottagecore. Strawberry girl. Femme Fatale. Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The options are endless, so feel free to choose your fighter. The term ‘aesthetic’ has its roots in philosophy and is based on romanticisation, immediacy and an overall appeal, which has changed drastically over time. The relevance of aesthetics has always been there, but what has changed is people’s manic obsession with inculcating these aesthetics in their daily lives.

Labeling of aesthetics in many categories to suit people’s “beautifying” needs has skyrocketed in recent years. If you haven’t seen one of these reels of people dressing up as dolls or pretending to be intellectual researchers in a dark academic novel, you’ve been living under a rock (oops!). People have adapted to this rapidly changing internet space, which originally emerged from Tumblr and Pinterest. The existence and validity of the aesthetic justifies and serves as a poignant commentary on the oversaturation of online niches relevant to today’s generation, consumed by rapid content creation and production. But behind the scenes of this frenzied fantasy are deep-seated problems with the “self” – reflecting an individual’s insecurities and desire to be someone else. We’ve all felt confused during times of chaos and found solace in changing our authentic selves into someone else, whether it’s a Disney animated character or the style of your favorite Kardashian.

The presence of this aesthetic in recurring fashion trends and character tropes forces us to think: are we lost in the search for identity, or do we find solace in being a stranger? There’s a reason celebrities and influencers all strip down to their natural selves and pretend to play the part of a ballerina or flaunt old-school New York chic to keep up with such trends. The reason this aesthetic hasn’t died out yet has more to do with it than just the case of popularity and the desperate attempt to avoid the fear of missing out. When faced with an existential crisis (always) or at a turbulent stage in life, people look to these curated identities as a means of escape. It’s easier to look like a pre-existing curated identity on TikTok than to read a book and relate to a character. Aesthetics remain trendy because they are ready-made, delicious and consumer-friendly, which appeals to most people, especially teenagers.

Aesthetics change our sense of individuality. Micro-trends, along with excessive use of social media, make it readily available for people to incorporate this aesthetic into their daily lives. It gives them a sense of belonging and familiarity as this aesthetic is closely tied to specific hobbies, styling patterns and personality traits and provides an overall quirky attraction to each individual. One might then believe that the relevance of aesthetics correlated with social conformity, which refers to agreeing or conforming to the majority in a specific group and behaving in conventional terms. Friendship groups are often formed based on similarities and preferences, due to which people stick to their circles. One can observe a personality change by switching from a group of bookworms to a group of musicians. A change in friend groups would bring about temporary secret personality shifts and force a person to switch between different aesthetics. Celebrities use this tactic to stay on trend while indirectly promoting the use of such tropes. People may feel pressured to transform their true selves and convert into an alternate persona to match the styles favored by others in order to be more likable, and this buries the individual’s true personality to fit into an aesthetic curated by trendsetters or someone Other.

Media tropes have not always been compulsively painful. The ancient terminology formulated by the Greeks and Romans helps people channel their energy and engage in creative endeavors to cope with dull and monotonous moments in life. But with the uncontrollable thirst to look for new and exciting content on social media, such aesthetics thrive to satiate the lack of entertainment people face after a long and tiring day. The most dangerous aspect of the growing online communities also highlights that people who actively engage and identify with these identities describe themselves as artistic and impressionistic. Most of the time these people don’t even identify with their identity and do it to be more relatable to a specific target audience. It comes across as shallow and pretentious behavior because social media is supposed to be a safe platform for people to be themselves without any barriers or restrictions. The problem of being “that girl” is not limited to the self but can escalate into overconsumption and capitalistic demands as people prefer to buy clothes from a clothing or beauty brand.

Modern aesthetics have cultivated this internet facade, luring people in by promising them a fun time dressing up and cosplaying. It is crucial to understand that the media is not always an accurate or realistic portrayal of our society, and one cannot always strive to be the rustic farm girl who pretends to live in the woods. The illusion doesn’t match our reality, and it’s tiring to keep up with the trends consistently. GenZ’s obsession with media aesthetics and engagement with media needs to undergo a shift in more convalescent ways instead of over obsessing over aesthetics and putting a limit to this constructed internet romanticization.

#Curious #Case #Internets #Obsession #Aesthetics

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