Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The market for self-hatred

We must stop letting our insecurities be profitable
Shilpa Sweth
Daily Collegian (2023)

We exist in a consumer-based society, and with that comes the existence of a market for almost everything. The market surrounding physical appearance, in particular, is in demand more than ever, and yet it is extremely mentally destructive. The beauty industry at large, which includes various skincare, haircare, makeup and fragrance companies, generated over $400 billion in revenue in 2022, and has grown at a steady rate of around six percent per year. Unless you happen to have an equally jarring amount of money, the average person can never keep up.

Beauty standards have always existed in some form throughout history. Societal ideals have existed in the past; certain features and body types have been placed on a pedestal, only to be taken down and replaced with something different. Looking back through the media of previous generations, the shifting beauty standards are quite observable; just compare Marilyn Monroe and Kate Moss, for example. But previous generations did not have the added stressor of social media to reinforce such standards and double down on the idea that you cannot compete.

The advent and popularization of the internet has created a new phenomenon. Rather than beauty standards shifting over the years, we now observe microtrends bursting into public consciousness and then fading into obscurity faster than most can even understand what they must do to replicate them. We now not only turn a blind eye to but endorse overconsumption to stay on pace with the ever-changing online landscape. I see it every day when an influencer exclaims to not walk but run to Target so you don’t miss out on bathing suit deals, or sprint to Ulta to buy the first line of a celebrity skincare brand before it’s sold out.

The internet, as a collective, makes people famous for doing their “get ready with me” because we all internally hope that if we do what they do, buy the products they buy and apply them as such, then maybe we could look like them too. Even though we swap out influencers as fast as we do our products, the message is still the same: whatever you are doing is not enough.

Social media has turned beauty into a commodity with a limited supply, subliminally telling us all that there’s not enough to go around. That if we want to be beautiful we must take drastic measures, and fast, lest we be left behind. Social media has given people — specifically the rich — a new platform to blast their advertisements in our faces, to make it constant. It’s no wonder we see 10 and 11-year-olds at Sephora. If they are on social media and being advertised to constantly, of course they begin to feel like they need to enter the competition too.

It’s also no wonder that there is a provable link between teens’ social media use and negative body image. We have created a new market for comparison, where the rich who have professional chefs, personal trainers, glam teams and world class surgeons can swindle their audiences. With the help of photographers and photo editors, they actively beckon to their millions of followers: “just use my shapewear, and you, too, can be beautiful.”

The market for self-hatred is alive and thriving. Succumbing to it feels like a passive action, almost as easy as doing nothing at all. I believe that reframing the constant competition and overconsumption as just another market has been the most effective tool for myself. When I feel my own insecurities creeping in, I remind myself who profits off me feeling that way. And in the search for something as untenable and fleeting as beauty, there is no quick purchase that fixes it all.

Lining the pockets of the ultra-rich won’t make me feel any better; it will just leave me with less money. And while there is nothing wrong with self-improvement, in the wake of “clean girl aesthetics” and “cinnamon cookie butter hair,” and all the products needed to achieve these desired looks, there is something inherently admirable to me about being unaffected. In a world where the goal sometimes feels like pure replication, there is nothing cooler than being yourself.

Fiona McFarland can be reached at [email protected]

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