If you’re on Twitter then I’m sure you’ve scrolled past a few interesting pictures of prom goers. I scrolled down my timeline a few weeks back and saw what I thought to be a wedding photo of a couple. To my surprise, it turned out to be a picture of a teenage couple headed to prom.
The #Prom2k15 hashtag is a visual display of the side effects of growing up in the age of Instagram. Social media is a window into the lives of others, including celebrities. Our teenagers are absorbing this celebrity content daily are measuring themselves against the celebrity standard of beauty and success. Growing up in the age of Instagram has manifested itself as celebrity look-a-like prom dresses, extravagant pre-prom photo shoots, 20-inch weaves and rented foreign cars.
A popular entertainment Instagram account @TheShadeRoom has dedicated an entire hashtag to it: #CelebrityInspiredPromDresses, which includes photos of high school girls sporting exact replicas of celeb gowns, standing in front of rented Rolls-Royces with their dates. It’s eerie that these young women are wanting to look and dress like celebrity women—some of these celebs are in their thirties.
There’s something telling about the images. Why are our Black girls wanting to align with such a heightened standard of beauty? Why are these parents renting Rolls-Royces for their children? What happened to renting a limo with a group of friends?
“As kids individualize themselves from their parents, which is a natural part of development and growing up, they try to establish psychological and emotional independence,” says Dr. Alan Ravitz on ChildMind.org. “No matter the culture, they need somebody to look to, aside from their parents, for guidance and a model for becoming an adult. In our culture, this is often a sports figure, an actor or a pop star.”
There’s a lack of self-love being instilled in our youth, and they are seeking value in the wrong things. The #Prom2k15 hashtag is a visual display of it. They are being guided by Instagram posts and celebrity lifestyles. We aren’t giving them realistic standards of beauty to adhere to. They confuse pretty with Beyoncé, stylish with Kim Kardashian and independence with Bossy. They aren’t exposed to diverse forms of beauty, style and independence, so they seek to align with the one type they do see consistently: celebrity.
A study conducted on Adolescents, Celebrity Worship, and Cosmetic Surgery by the National Center for Health Research gave a questionnaire to gauge celebrity influence on 137 young adults between the ages of 18 and 23 over an eight month period. Researchers found that, “the women and men who showed intense ‘celebrity worship’ were more likely to undergo invasive cosmetic procedures, even after controlling for other known predictors of cosmetic surgery, such as low self-esteem, greater preoccupation with body image and previous cosmetic surgery.”
A 2011 government funded Bailey report showed that “young children were becoming more like teenagers in their behavior and the ways they use fashion to create their identity.” The research was conducted by Dr. Jane Pilcher and 12 colleagues in the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester. According to the University of Leicester article on the study, Dr. Pilcher agreed that there are worries around the idea of children and fashion. But she also argued that “it is unrealistic to expect the nature of childhood to stay the same when society itself is changing and becoming dominated by consumerism and celebrity culture.”
It must be so hard to be a teenage girl in the age of Instagram. It’s a time where you scroll through so many people’s “ups” that it causes you to feel like you’re always down. Instagram has become a destination for celebrities to show their travels, possessions and lifestyles, which is interesting. But when a young lady who lacks self-love, confidence and grounding rolls up on their pages, she may feel compelled to possess those things. She may not feel whole until she possesses something like it. This is why we see high school girls with bundles of Brazilian hair. No one is saying, “Love what you’ve got” in this era of Instagram.
Social media mega-personalities and celebs have the means to operate under the motto, “If you don’t like it, fix it.” And that same message is conveyed to the young minds who absorb their content, quotes and photos. For example, 17-year-old Kylie Jenner just admitted to having her lips done. She has 24 million followers, many of them young women, who just received that underlying message. Young women are seeing that they can buy, manipulate, change and dress themselves until they like what they see. Who’s going to tell them that if their hair is short, the solution isn’t an 18-inch Brazilian sew-in, it’s self acceptance and a fly haircut?
The Prom 2k15 pictures were like a magnifying lens of the issues teens are facing in the age of social media. They don’t want to be themselves, it seems, or even their age. They want to be celebrities. They want to have the most extravagant gown, they want to be sexy (at 16 and 17), they want the handsome arm candy and they want the foreign luxury car.
What a burden they will carry through life if this is what they think defines happiness and success.