The “Beauty” of Social

Four You Gallery
June 23, 2021| Aline

Isabelle McCormick-10 March 2020-Oil on canvas with gold leaf & Swarovski crystal rhinestones-96.5 x 72.2 cm

One of the first questions anyone is asked today when meeting someone for the first time is “what’s your Instagram?”. Gone are the days when we’d converse with strangers and get to know them, exchange phone numbers etc. Before getting an idea of their character or personality, we judge others by their follower count on social media. We’ve traded in “what do you do for fun?” for “what’s your favorite editing app?”. This has not only affected the way we perceive others, but more importantly, the way we see ourselves.

Social media has created an all-too perfect version of beauty, a standard no natural human being could possibly live up to and one that we shame ourselves for not being able to attain. Everything must look aesthetically pleasing, or else it can’t be posted on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok … And if you don’t post every aspect of yourself on social media, you’re considered the odd one out. The effects of social media, beautifying and editing apps and reality TV have been snowballing for years, with the early warning signs being completely ignored. With the increasing popularity of filters that alter women’s and young girls’ faces to look more model-esque, even taking pictures of themselves in these filters to plastic surgeons so they can physically alter themselves to look like these filters (!), it’s time (better late than never) to take a minute and reassess the power social media holds over us. “Whilst we may believe we are mindlessly scrolling though such content, our subconscious is soaking it all up and before we know it, those perfectly formed bodies have become the standard by which we measure everything else”, says Ntianu Obiora. Phones are glued to our hands 24/7 so we never miss a photo opportunity, whether we’re having breakfast, studying, or sitting by the pool.

This is the highlight of Isabelle McCormick’s work, featured in the Four You Gallery x Artistellar online exhibition titled “It’s All Relative”. The exhibition features five early-career to mid-career female artists exploring the wide range of emotions and connections prominent to their respective lives. The main idea behind “It’s All Relative” is that our individual fears, joys, and curiosities carry a very specific meaning to us that may not be the case for others (and vice versa) – in other words, it’s all relative!

Through her practice, Isabelle explores what it means to live in today’s world of modern technology and questions women and their position in the society of beautifying apps, social media, and reality TV. She portrays not only women’s dependence on their phones, which are indeed the snake in most cases, but on the constant need to have everything look good from nails to phone covers. This form of filtered reality that Isabelle is portraying through her art has made way for a slew of self-esteem, body dysmorphia, bullying issues – to name a few. It’s gotten so deeply ingrained in some women that they refuse to be seen without these filters – believing that the way they look with a filter is how they really look. Young girls seem to have the most difficulty differentiating between real and filtered photos, possibly because of their inability to understand how these filters affect their sense of self. For example, Isabelle’s work portrays the behavior of, shockingly so, teenage girls more than it does adult women or young adults. Imagine!

On the other hand, young or adult men have absolutely no interest in altering their appearance with filters except when it comes to the funny bunny ears or odd-looking beard, but will be selective, judgmental, critical … you name it … when it comes to women’s photos. Men – those who use social media – use it for entertainment, women use it as a beauty contest. Ironic much?

With social media platforms further investing their money and efforts into capitalizing on women’s insecurities, where does that leave us? Will we forever be at the mercy of filtered reality, or will we wake up and impose our own version of beauty, REAL beauty? I vote the latter.

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