LOS ANGELES, September 11, 2014 – One of the great joys about social media is the small window it opens for outsiders who can stop, peak in, like, comment, and go about their daily lives.
But every now and again an outsider like me looks a little longer through that window. Soon, what starts as a glimpse becomes a gaze, and then (after a cup of coffee of course) evolves into an insightful addition to this column of (Mis)Adventures.
During my continuing attempts to swan dive back into the social media pool, I get to peek every now and again into small windows that reveal the daily quips and quotes of society.
Just one of my interesting social online experiences lately has been checking out the “Woman Crush Wednesday” hashtag, also referred to as #WCW. Both men and women use the popular hashtag to highlight that someone special that tickles their fancy—namely a woman.
Topics of posts here can range anywhere from grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and sisters, to video vixens and supermodels. Even I decided to join in on the fun with my first and to this date only #WCW, concerning the late and lovely Lauren Bacall. (If you do not know who she is, I strongly encourage you to initiate a YouTube search, pronto.) Competition has been fierce among admirers of Bacall, Nina Simone, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lisa Simpson.
I’ve been eagerly looking forward to each Wednesday to see the list of amazing women that would appear under the popular #WCW tag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This time, I waited, and then waited some more, and finally came to the realization that what I was looking at was it. What I was seeing was all there was.
Needless to say, there were no Lauren Bacalls, Nina Simones, Eleanor Roosevelts, or Lisa Simpsons. There were few doctors, lawyers, leaders, teachers, politicians, business or career women.
A few smart men showed love to their significant others on this day. However, their gestures of affection were lost in a sea of music videos, Instagram “models” and duck-faced selfies. I couldn’t help but wonder if these women would still have careers if an app like Instagram failed to operate tomorrow. But I digress.
This observation certainly did not come as a surprise. Good looks, physicality, sexiness, and superficiality are rooted in the laws of human attraction. No one looks at a girl from across the room and says, “Wow, she looks so smart. Yep, that’s a leader right there.” Heck, to some people Eleanor Roosevelt isn’t as sexy as a scarecrow with lovely lady lumps.
One can’t help but wonder how and why the requirements bar for initiating female adoration has been set so low. After peeking through this window a little longer than I probably should have, I came to a realization that really disturbed me when I reflected on some fairly recent stats.
In a September 2012 survey, the Pew Internet Project found that 95 percent of all teens ages 12 to 17 are now online. And 81 percent of these online teens used some form of social media.
That was two years ago. Given the rapid growth of Internet and social media users every day, it wouldn’t surprise me if that number has increased somewhat.
What is even more interesting is that the teenage percentages are tied with those of adult Internet users ages 18-29, effectively putting the prime social media age demographic into the 12 to 29 age bracket. If you are still with me, you get a cookie.
I then thought about my younger female cousins and my little sister. While they are amazing girls with minds of their own, they are living in a different world than I was inhabiting only a decade ago.
They are part of a pool of 12 to 29 year olds in the social media realm that are all exposed to the same content, including #WCW tags of half-naked women, fleshy decadence, and duck faces.
If the featured woman is not a celebrity, nine times out of ten there is no mention of what she does for a living, or whether she is educated, smart, funny, creative, or if she gets sweaty palms when she is nervous.
Because sweaty isn’t sexy unless it’s a gym selfie.
I didn’t grow up with selfies, but I grew up with music videos and magazines that I thought hated me. They seemed to be telling me that if I didn’t have the kind of clothes that were featured, I wasn’t ready for Spring. And that being scantily clad was sexy.
Problem is, I didn’t look like the video models and I didn’t look like the fashion models in women’s magazines who looked like gaunt, pre-pubescent boys.
But I could always close the magazine and toss it away. I could always change the channel. I could look down at my pot belly (which I still have and proudly flaunt) and just skip along with my day, being my weird, quirky, and fabulous self.
If I were that age today, those same images would pop up in my news feed or timeline automatically to greet me in the morning before I even had the time to wipe the sleep from my eyes. For a teenage girl, once that image is burned-in there, it’s already left an impression that will last throughout the day.
But this article isn’t intended to be a sappy PSA on the pitfalls of teenage girls and self-esteem. Just a reflection of a glimpse that turned into a gaze.
I can only hope that young girls like my cousins and little sister take only a glimpse if anything at all through that Internet window, and then, like me, skip along with their day to be their fabulous quirky selves the way every girl deserves to be.
After all, the thought of Eleanor Roosevelt and Nina Simone taking a sexy, half-naked, duck-faced selfie together in a mirror is quite disturbing, and actually, I’m pretty glad that it is.