Aesthetics Confine Creativity

In a culture where self-worth is based on appearance, teens may be giving up their individuality to fit in

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Faith Beckmann

During the rise in the popularity of aesthetics, so called “niche memes” increased in popularity as well by depicting various objects that all relate to one aesthetic. These memes all support the generalization of creativity that exists in the styles and lives of the teenagers who follow them.

With just one quick search for the word “aesthetic” on YouTube, Instagram, or Pinterest, millions of posts and images pop up of nicely decorated rooms, stylish outfits, and photoshoots done by young influencers. However, after scrolling through these photos for a while a person can’t help but notice how similar all these images look. They all seem to feature the same plain white walls, abundances of green plants in pretty pots, crop tops, and ripped mom jeans. As someone who has considered watching teen lifestyle YouTubers a primary part of their life for years, I feel I can attest to the fact that this so-called “aesthetic culture” has been damaging an important part of teenage life: self-expression.

To digress, this culture has always been around. For instance, in 2014 being aesthetic was commonly referred to as being “tumblr”, a phrase which differs from the social media site by the same name. Some common trends of this pivotal point in internet history were DIY room decor, skater skirts, graphic tees, and chokers. However, these trends were not only present online, but everywhere, including teen-demographic stores and schools. This reinforces the fact that in a culture where so much of our lives are based on social media and trying to fit in, it is easy to let the influence of how all the popular social media stars are living their lives seep into your own.

I remember when I was younger watching room tours from influencers such as Bethany Mota, Rachel Levin, and CloeCouture and seeing their rooms painted bright shades of pink and blue, decorated with photos and little knick-knacks that showed their personality and interests. Now when watching room tours from the new-age teen influencers, it’s evident how much emphasis is placed on aesthetics and making sure your room is pleasing to the eye. All the rooms seem almost copy-cat from each other no matter how “original” the creator claims it to be.

The culture of aesthetics is damaging to society for one specific reason, they have caused a limit to individuality based on conformism. People will change their entire lifestyle and personality in an attempt to live a life that looks cohesive on social media. For one, it is straight-up demeaning to oneself to base your entire personality and wellbeing under one category. Furthermore, aesthetics allow teens to create the illusion that they have the perfect Instagram-worthy life, giving them the idea that you can simply ignore your problems by placing yourself in a world where every little detail is perfect. This concept is not only completely unsustainable but also is highly unhealthy as it teaches that you don’t need to cope with your emotions and can simply just bury them.

Additionally, a recent TikTok trend has popped up on my For You page where people talk about two aesthetics that they would like to “be”, but are very contrasting in nature. People fear being different and not having a style that falls under one standard category. The conformanism in our culture due to aesthetics has scared people into not wanting to combine ideas in an act of self-expression. This again is highly unhealthy and slowly starts to force people into something out of a dystopian novel, where people only exist under mere categories. Everyone falls into a category somewhere and their entire personality and life story is based on it. It’s unnatural and dangerous.

In other words, don’t let some stupid little aesthetic define your self-expression and don’t let society tell you who or what you’re supposed to be. Allow yourself to have multiple interests and express them freely, regardless if it just falls under one category. Expression does not equal basing your life around having everything perfectly situated among one concept, but instead on individual quirks from different parts of your personality regardless if they flow together. Being “aesthetic” doesn’t make you quirky or different, it makes you a clone. To be an individual and to be unique (in stylistic terms) you must be willing to go against pop culture’s status quo and combine different concepts and features into one mold, which is you.