Attractiveness is like currency: there is this worldwide, universal “understanding” that the more good-looking you are, the more successful you are. Sometimes people have it and lots of it, but it’s all part of a bigger man’s game – you know, society’s so-called rules of attractiveness? Yet, as we all know, beauty standards are relative to time and place. For instance, the body of a Victoria’s Secret Angel wouldn’t have resonated as much with both men and women in an age dominated by the likes of Marilyn Monroe. In turn, even today, the same standards of beauty practice in Asia are completely different to that of the Western world. However, while beauty standards shall always remain – and have always remained – it has been the rise of the Internet, and, in particular, the creation of social media that has spawned an impact upon society greater than perhaps we ever could have imagined.
Fitness Models & Instagram
Nothing creates feelings of both inspiration and self-hate more than fitness models on Instagram. Bikini-clad and with acai bowl in hand, the likes of Tammy Hembrow, Ashy Bines, and Kayla Itsines lead Australia headfirst into the Insta-famous fitness trend. Whether it’s “clean” eating posts, or summer-body updates, Australia’s Instagram fitness models make a healthy lifestyle seem cool. Kate Moss’s ’90s lustful heroine chic diet of cigarettes, drugs, and air has been pushed aside by the rise of social media and the ability to spread the word of healthy eating. And while educating young people on the right things to put into their body is a good thing – how much progress is really being really desire to be “this”, or be “that”? In particular, Kayla Itsines has become the worldwide poster girl for fitness. Instagram verified and with over five million followers, Itsines’ ‘Bikini Body Guide’ feature healthy recipes and an extensive fitness regime; yet, her audience is largely that of young, impressionable teen girls. The excessive promotion of a “healthier” lifestyle can often be overlooked by an underlying desire to look a certain way, regardless if your body type or genetic background confirms otherwise.
The Art Of “Filter-Ready”: A Guide By The Kardashians
Since the youngest of the Kardashian “Klan” (who is technically a Jenner) finally came clean about her Juvederm-filled lips, everybody has seemed to jump on the plump bandwagon. Whether you follow ‘King Kylie’ on Instagram or even manage to watch any of her Snapchat story, you’ll know that Kylie Jenner has become a second-class citizen to her lips, her trademark. In fact, she has thrown a big middle-finger to her haters by making a fortune and a half off her Lip Kits. Even the notorious Kimmy K and the selfie has in itself become an Instagram staple. However, perfecting the art of self-indulgence is a tricky task for commoners like us, especially without a professional hair and makeup team.
As such, there is this ever-expanding online obsession with makeup; you only have to spend five minutes on YouTube to find out how to do the perfect contour. Makeup trends have become almost a sub-genre of fashion trends themselves – a notion pushed forward and even emphasised by the Kardashians. Long gone are the days where what you wore defined you; go outside without a highlighted cheekbone and you’re basically a poor excuse for a decent person.
Plus Size Models & Campaigns
Plus size models, for many, offer a more real alternative to the widely-accepted teeny tiny modelling world. Popular plus-sized model, Tess Holliday and her Instagram campaign, #effyourbeautystandards, has taken the world by storm. In 2016, women, in particular, are celebrating curves and damning the idea of a “size 0”. Yet, there is an issue of health surrounding the use of bigger models: Tess Holliday admits she is 280 pounds (127 kilograms), and she reportedly has a BMI of 46. How this is “healthier” than a size 0 girl on the catwalk is something definitely worth a good ponder: where do the lines between mental and physical health blur? Do what brings you the self-love, I encourage.
Weibo Trends & Pro-Ana Sites
Yet, the socials of the Western world are not the only platform designated for body-morphing influence. China’s “Facebook” – better known as Weibo – has become a weird and wonderful place for the influx of beauty trends. Perhaps most damaging, and, most notable is the ‘Belly Button Challenge’ posts. Much like our own obsession with thigh gaps – the belly-button trend of last year saw girls measure how thin their waist was by wrapping their arm around their back and touching their naval (seems easy in theory but try it and you’ll probably stretch a muscle like I did). And while these trends promote a degree of entertainment, it’s certainly not off-topic to regard them as a subtle facet of pro-ana sites.
Pro-ana or pro-anorexia sites, particularly curated through Tumblr, provide impressionable young individuals with content from “thinspo” photos to tips on starvation techniques. While the whole ‘fear-the-new-media’ concept derives mostly from older generations unwilling to grip onto 21st century technology, it’s easy to say that pro-ana sites are undeniably damaging, and need to be met with love and consideration for those who stuck in it’s world. Any hint of vulnerability and insecurity, especially in young people, is picked at and picked at by these sites.
K-Pop & Korean Beauty Standards
Korean pop music’s international peak was arguably Psy’s 2012 ‘Gangnam Style.’ Yet, K-pop is more than a silly one-hit-wonder – to discover K-pop is to discover a goldmine of talent; Girls Generation, Shinee, 2NE1, BTS and EXO are just some of hugely successful K-pop acts to make it big. K-pop is catchy songs, full-force dance routines, and engaging visuals – from outfits to music videos. However, K-pop is also at the forefront of South Korea’s widely accepted use of plastic surgery.
A 2015 CBS news report reveals that South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita. Yet, unlike the Western world, plastic surgery isn’t looked down upon in South Korea. Rather, the country embraces face-alteration, as many young people even receive plastic surgery as a gift from their parents for graduating High School. This yearning for perpetual beauty is instilled into many young people from an early age due to the acceptance surrounding cosmetic surgery in Korean culture. South Korean pop stars are a constant vision of beauty within the media – hair, makeup and strenuous diet and fitness regimes paint a portrait of beautified perception rather than truth. Many South Koreans, alongside their celebrities, indulge in jaw shaving, double eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty and even eye-widening surgery. You only have to Google image search “k-pop stars” to see the level of perfection attained.
Trend-Anxiety: Bridging The Gap Between Social Media & The Real World
Tumblr “It Girls”
There is always an It Girl lingering around on the interwebs, sneaking into our feeds and refusing to go away. To put it simply: an It Girl is the girl that nobody will shut up about. Everyone wants to be her. She exudes style, youth and recklessness, and thus, she is a huge influence upon young minds. An example of an It Girl is Cara Delevingne in 2012, and her beloved eyebrows, or the recent Insta-crush on Lily-Rose Depp.
The Death of Subculture
Selective music and film dominated the trends of eras before now. The UK once led the way to a path of coolness: from skinheads, to new romantics, to punks. Even Australia’s sharpies in the 1970s held true a value of unity and distinction – a concept running alongside a passion for music. Today, however, social media has created a global hub of trends accessible to almost anyone, and everyone. Yet, this universalism has destroyed the idea of subcultures in the process – there is no new youth reinvention every few years. Rather, the Internet and the 21st century have created a cycle of trends. Subcultures are a rise against society through fashion, music, and presence – today’s trends are rather a lacklustre statement of self-preservation merely highlighting our web-fear of being deemed unworthy.
The Ultimate Online Presence Today
There is a fear that plagues young people today: posting the wrong thing. God forbid the right selfie isn’t uploaded, or that the reflagged pic of art deco furniture wasn’t art deco enough. It’s about maintaining an aesthetic, and about keeping barriers up. Keeping a consistent, unbreakable online presence is an example of how much we focus on what other people think of us.
However, these are only some broken-down aspects of how social media has determined the new beauty standards across the globe. Got any other thoughts? Let us know! Cover image by Sara Andreasson.