Since its conception, social media has been a forum for society to promote a stylised, optimal version of themselves.
Good news to good hair days are shared like it’s going out of fashion: ‘soccer moms’ have never found it easier to broadcast their daughter’s successful penalty kick, and spurned lovers have never been more adept at prompting exes to wish they’d never left.
Recently, however, there has been a global push for our virtual selves to be more authentic. The body positivity movement’s flourishing and the unedited bikini pic’s rise (see Demi Lovato’s iconic acceptance of her ‘CELLULIT!!!’ body on Instagram) has heralded the natural era of social media. With the number of global users projected to tip over the four billion threshold by 2023…that’s a whole lot of realness.
Yet, with the rise of ‘Close Friends’ stories and ‘finsta’ accounts, should we be mindful of ‘oversharing’? Young people are often told to resist posting scantily-clad snaps online, for fear of future employers’ judgement. Whilst this has always felt regressive to me, I wholeheartedly agree that they should think twice about posting potentially offensive content that could risk career prospects. Just ask Kevin Hart, who had to step down as Oscars host after his 2011 homophobic tweets resurfaced recently.
For social media to be used for good, some level of ‘oversharing’ needs to be encouraged. Menstruation needs to be talked about without eliciting responses of revulsion. Influencers should be able to promote disposable pads and moon cups with the ease they promote HiSmile, so that the monthly plight of half the world’s population is registered and respected by the other half. Race issues should be exposed, even if it still makes people uncomfortable – because it still makes people uncomfortable.
‘Taboo’ should be reserved for that which is universally offensive, not that which is difficult to listen to, purely because it conveys a harsh truth. This notion is epitomised in the latest controversy involving Chrissy Teigen. The unofficial Queen of Twitter is renowned for her brazen honesty, with tweets ranging from comedic gold (‘I am so lazy I thought about looking at the super moon and decided 2033 isn’t even that far away’) to pitch-perfect ‘clapbacks’ (in response to Trump’s tweet about keeping ‘evil’ out of America, she asked what time his Uber would be pulling up) to serious, raw, real content.
When Teigen posted devastating photographs documenting the aftermath of her tragic miscarriage, she was met with Loose Woman Carol McGiffin’s distaste amidst a storm of support. McGiffin decided that the post, which showed her and John, hands clasped and weeping with their swaddled baby boy, made her ‘uncomfortable’. They might not be fit to ‘share on social media’, she thought. Jane Moore agreed that the timing was off, saying ‘it’s very soon after it happened; that for me is the most ‘oh’ thing’. What gave these individuals the right to criticise Teigen’s grieving process remains to be seen. The pressing matter, however, is that they deemed unadulterated bereavement firmly taboo, because…it’s just too real? It makes Carol uncomfortable because she’s witnessing captured trauma, and Jane is articulating ‘oh’ because that trauma is happening right now.
Chrissy is reaching out to followers now that times are bad for the same reason she always has when times are good. Half the world’s population is online.
There’s no better way for us to support one another, en masse, as a global community. Teigen’s photographs are urgent and singular, the one chance to preserve a fleeting moment that, once gone, will never be recovered. They are the most important images she will ever share.
So if you’re feeling uncomfortable, Carol, look away now.
Image: Steve Harvey via Unsplash