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Culture & society

Are we addicted to perfection?

Written by Grace Pheasey

Perfection, the happy ending we learnt from fairytales, but now the lifestyle that is bound to the online platforms that live in our pocket-sized devices. This piece aims to question whether we are losing sight of what is real, Grace Pheasey asks, ‘are we addicted to perfection?’

Our society thrives on the motivational concept that is perfection. It is something that is bound to the childhood stories and the beloved films that defines humanity. The essence of a perfect lifestyle is thinking of ourselves as prosperous, healthy and positive individuals who fulfil dreams. However, we are now living in a time where our understanding of perfection is determined by the lifestyles that feature on social media. But are we are being fed unreal expectations?

Social media is a host for aspiration that seems to be exemplified by public figures and celebrities who present ‘perfect’ lifestyles. Designed to be viewed in a dream state, separating reality and fantasy, is now seen as being achievable. People are now feeling less important or successful in comparison. Public profiles and the choice of sharing our lives online, now comes at the conscious reminder that we need public approval. Are we using other people’s opinions to construct our own understanding of what perfection is? Human instinct makes us want to feel a sense of accomplishment, something that can be fulfilled through our occupation, financial and wellbeing status. The reliance on online platforms is changing the way we measure success, something that now seems to be based on how many likes or comments we receive on a post.

Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, Charlie Massey comments how “young people are under immense pressure on a daily basis about how they should look”. Social media’s accessibility again comes at a disadvantage when the minds of young people are being polarised.The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) details how there was ‘over 28,000 ops’ in 2017,

“young people are under immense pressure on a daily basis about how they should look”

Charlie Massey

young people are under immense pressure on a daily basis about how they should look

as ‘women had 91% of all cosmetic procedures in 2017’.  These statistics are evidence to suggest that beauty perfection is something that has to be designed and paid for. In terms of beauty, perfection is characterised by a button nose, big lips with a slim yet curvy silhouette. The deep correlation between BAAPS’ results of a large percentage of women are having cosmetic surgery and Hollywood figures, is a concerning message. The pressure to maintain a certain idea of beauty is removing the true nature of identity and individualism, highlighting that social media is promoting unhealthy or damaging ways to achieve perfection.

“The pressure to maintain a certain idea of beauty is removing the true nature of identity and individualism, highlighting that social media is promoting unhealthy or damaging ways to achieve perfection.”

Are we losing sight of what is real? This is an increasingly alarming question that has come to fruition through the mindset that is adopted when using social media. Body image is presented online to be a symbol that needs to be bound to perfection. The assumption that a perfect body is a small waist, big lips, large cleavage with perfect skin; causing a spiral of low self-esteem due to the comparison to a silhouette that only exists on Adobe Photoshop. Not only do we battle the challenge of fulfilment with ourselves, but the images that social media influencers produce. We are addicted to achieving and maintaining a certain look.

A recent BBC Panorama ‘Million-pound selfie sell off’ described social media influencers as ‘people who make huge followings from our obsession with social media’. Their role constitutes as a major factor in shaping public opinion towards certain products or lifestyles. Instagram is the main online platform that is a space for endorsing products that are supposedly going to improve lifestyles. Khloe Kardashian recently posted an image endorsing meal replacement shakes for a ‘flat tummy’. Body activist and presenter Jameel Jamil responded to this, criticising how posts like this are promoting unhealthy lifestyles, allowing people to think that the perfect body is achieved easily.  Jameel’s body positivity messages are a refreshing reinforcement on social media platforms, an echo we need to hear.

Addressing whether we are addicted to perfection is a necessary question in the current climate of social media and identity. We are offered validation from the number of likes we have or the compliments we hear about our appearance. Perfection is a concept designed to help people believe that happiness can be achieved by the choices we make. Platforms like Instagram are the new breeding ground for how perfection can be reflected in modern-day life, yet the barrier between reality and fantasy is blurred. We seem to be motivated by the conscious thought that perfection is an unattainable and fast-changing notion. Perfection is a subjective thought, so leave the perfect endings in fairytales and create your own happiness.

“Platforms like Instagram are the new breeding ground for how perfection can be reflected in modern-day life, yet the barrier between reality and fantasy is blurred.”

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