Written by Gracielle Dedo
Numerous platforms of social media have gradually ingrained ideals of aestheticism into teenagers as they grow up. In the early 2000s, celebrities were to be held as the inspiration for these. It wasn’t until the emergence of platforms such as Tiktok arose that the already established ‘aesthetics’ origination from Myspace and Tumblr, found a modern toxic place to fester. Much can be written about the two previously mentioned sites and their impacts. This article will focus on Tiktok, the desire to fit in despite wanting to stand out, and the decline of originality in places where it was intended to be bred.
Apposition: The Desire to Fit in is Dangerous
There is an innate desire to fit in, to belong, to discover a community in which you can model yourself. The juvenile years are crucial in forming identity and self. Naturally, there are those who follow the crowd and those who stray from it. Albert Einstein put it best, “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” Yet in these last four or so years, the concept of a ‘path’ is blurry. Individuals who strayed from the norm now enforce denying originality and staying within what is popular.
Aestheticism: A Subculture turned Personality Trait
‘Aesthetics’ arose from niche communities of like-minded individuals who sought to produce a protected community. In the present circumstances, popular aesthetics include dark academia, indie, cottagecore, and e-girls and e-boys. The last two being a terribly tired term that was far more popular a year or two ago. At its core, aestheticism is a glorified culture, looking at the world with rose-colored glasses on. These communities are mainly fashion-oriented, sometimes involving similar hobbies, tastes in books, movies, and music. There is no harm to what they pose, in fact, their surface-level identifies are quite charming and positive. People who felt they didn’t dress mainstream nor act clung to these aesthetics as they were popularized by Tiktok. Conceptually, it’s fun to be a part of one of these groups. Everyone tends to dress the same, and there is a general consensus of what is liked and disliked. As the years have gone on, and I myself grow maturer, I regard my peers continuing to strive to fit the molds of these crowds. I gave up on fitting into one mold about a year ago. I recognized myself deviating between wanting to dress one way or maintaining my room looking a certain way. I felt as if one did not complement the other, chaos would ensue, and then I wouldn’t be able to say I truly belonged to one aesthetic or another. The absurdity of this first-world dilemma is apparent to me now, but at the time, it felt valid. Individuals on the app TikTok assume these styles seriously, some practically modeling a personality after one. The adolescent years are fragile and teenagers are prompt to shift from one thing to the next. But what is the enforcement of categories doing to originality? These subcultures were started by people who felt like they didn’t fit in anywhere else, extending a welcoming arm to others the same. Now they’re trendy and exploited by companies feeding on fast fashion and making money off of impressionable teenagers. It is unclear if this cycle will ever break, so long as social media reigns.
Falsehood: Creating Your Own Book Cover
A new type of judgment can be established about a person based on what aesthetic they claim as their own. Whether or not the individual truly personifies the philosophy and ideals behind the aesthetic are scarcely considered by many who chose the label nor those who judge them. As a seventeen-year-old, it’s easy now to see another teenager and to state what ‘aesthetic’ they would fall under. As children, we were preached to not judge a book by its cover. Gradually, we adopted that dogma and even attempted to enforce it. In the present climate, individuals seek to create their own book covers, displaying what genre they feel they fit into before anyone else can make the assumption. Although certain aesthetics are universally disliked by the masses, the concept of these categories is not. Pre-teens are growing up in an age to consider this is normal, feeling that the extent of which they are can be classified down to whether they strictly wear pastels or black, and if they listen to classic rock music or new-age indie. It’s toxic and debilitating to youthful minds.
What’s the solution? The path that social media has set in motion gives oneself a choice and not a visible one. There is nothing wrong with deriving enjoyment in partaking with the sub-cultures. It’s thrilling to be able to identify people who you appreciate who will not judge you based on your interests, even if you aren’t compatible any other way. There has to remain a line drawn where we make the choice between taking a trend to a new level or simply learning to embrace the ability to pick and choose from aesthetics. There is no written rule stating you must behave one way if you dub yourself a part of the ‘indie’ community. Therefore, you shouldn’t be intimidated to partake in all sub-culture or none. I myself reject the notion of aesthetics. Confinement and falsehood didn’t sit right with me. Individuals who changed their personalities and hobbies on a whim to fit in with one crowd after committing to another are abundant and perhaps never going away. I urge you to celebrate that choice to free yourself from a category.