What The Beauty Campaign Is Getting Wrong


By Carolyn Shields

I can't help it. I think these beauty campaigns on social media are a waste of time. I've been tagged in selfies from girlfriends, encouraging me to post a photo where I find myself beautiful. There's this movement of "authenticity," the no-make-up-Monday and the #nofilter campaign. I was neigh-close to creating my own pro-beauty hashtag: #showcasetheordinary here on theYCW. But what would that have solved?

There's no doubt about it, though: there's a fierce cry that we're contorting beauty through misuse of media, and we are all guilty of it. But these campaigns are similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, similar to declaring "I'm going to create a Straight club" to counter the "Rainbow clubs" or other such minority clubs that are exploding in our schools--it's not going to fix the problem.

What's so wrong with sharing beauty?

The Media Lies

Some women have incredibly low self-esteem issues because of the perfectly hip photos we're posting. I'm raising my hand here. But what if our life simply isn't instagram worthy? What if we are more of a stay-at-home Friday nighter? Or prefer a Miller Lite over a more snapshot worthy cute-cocktail-with-a-sprig-of-something? What if we would rather go to sterile public libraries than chic cafes? Our newsfeeds are being flooded by latte art/fern loving/OOTDs/plane wings cliche-ness...and if you're at a total loss of figuring out how to take hipster photos, buzzfeed has got you covered with their How To article.

Stephanie May Wilson, author of The Lipstick Gospel, recently wrote on her instagram: "I feel such pressure to LIVE that kind of perfectly styled life...I'm realizing with a heavy heart that I haven't been authentic. I haven't been capturing my life as it really happens, haven't been sharing my heart with you. Instead, I've been curating photos and editing like crazy in an attempt to keep up with the perfect photos that fill my feed...I want to live a life so beautiful that I don't need a filter."

But here's where I say hold the phone whenever we broach the subject of our social media presence or profiles. Of course that's not the whole story. Of course that's not who we truly are. Completely. Fully. We know our lives are not perfect. Yes, I agree with Ms. Wilson entirely. There can be pressure. To get likes or earn followers (kind of like Jesus Without An Instagram?). We don't want to share an artificial life. But what what what, I ask, is the problem with too much beauty?

A Beautiful You

So here's my thing: there's only a handful of people in our lives who know us truly. That's probably your mom, your best friend, and your spouse. There, three people. Who we are and the way we act differs depending on our situation and who we are surrounded by. The way you behave around your friend's parents is totally different from the way you behave around your sister, your boss, your priest, and your classmates. So naturally, your online profile is not going to reveal the full picture either...why do we keep trying to then?

Second, of course you are only going to share beautiful photos. And what's wrong with that? If we understand the above, then we'll get that we won't show the full picture. That's not necessary if we understand that first truth. Think back to when we were ten, when we had that pink Barbie 110 film camera, before social media...or just think about our parent's generation pre-digital cameras. When they printed photos from a trip, don't you think they would have sorted through their photographs to nix sharing the ugly or blurry snapshots? Don't you think they only would have shown the beautiful ones?

And my third argument is, social media is not our life. It's a virtual one, and we forget that too often. It's a lens preadjusted, whose focus is altered. It's a scrapbook of someone's favorite memories, so if you're seeking for an "authentic" life, then get off of your instagram and facebook and share it over a coffee and not by posting a picture of its art. You're not going to find authenticity at its whole there, because just like our rents, we only show what is beautiful. (And I loved when instagram acknowledged this by creating its Story feature, to share moments that we may not necessarily want to capture forever but still share).

What the Campaigns Are Getting Right

So yes, I agree with Ms. Wilson. I agree that there can be pressure to turn on our inner Ansel Adams every time we hit up instagram, but are we putting that pressure all on ourselves? Are we forgetting that we don't have to reveal our entire hearts, forgetting that there's no competition, no gun to our heads shouting at us to be perfect, that we must live up to the standards of MET photography and come across as a well-rounded person to every single follower?

Hey, you're not only unique but you come across as different to your local barista, to your professor, and to your dog. Make your instagram just that--your own. It's a profile of one side of who you are and a place to share what you find most beautiful, and keep it as simple as that.

So these beauty campaigns? Yes, they are nice, and the first step is awareness. That's what these campaigns are doing right, but what's wrong is that they are trying to perfect the way we use media, and provide a solution to merely a consequence of the problem without tackling the problem itself.

Be you. Be your own. Be unique. And share what you love.

I love broaching these subjects, challenging and engaging and encouraging dialogue. Disagree with us! Share your thoughts below, and while you're at it, check out another wishy-washy article: In Defense of Selfies.