*A little note before I begin, I’m speaking as a person on the inside of social media who manages to stay level headed and view things as an outsider, I am in no way passing judgement but merely stating what I see as a demise. That being said, I’m not here to please anyone, so if you’re unable to handle some straight talk, you’re on the wrong website, go back to your unicorn land.*
It was a day just like any other in 2013, after the birth of my daughter, where I had this uncontrollable urge to put my foot down against the monstrosity of conformity. I refused to raise my child in a world endorsing individuality but in reality heading towards the exact opposite. I’ve had a fire in me since I was a child, and growing up and even at work I was nicknamed “Che” because I always felt the need to question the status quo, to revolt against the system. The system in this case being social and not political.
When I became a mom I felt that it was my duty to voice my opinion and to relate my experiences to other moms or moms to be, and even young girls who were still in school or university. Social media was on the rise, every person had their own little space online to share their hobbies and connect with one another. Those who preferred to write would start a blog and log in daily or weekly journal entries as a way to vent, in hopes of reaching out to like minded people. This meant that me and you and anyone on this planet could own a little space to voice their concerns and stand up to what traditional media was shoving down our throats.
*I had a lot of hope for a movement, and though I still do, I have a dreadful feeling that words such as “women empowerment” and “be your own kind of beautiful” have become buzzwords to generate validation in the form of likes and comments. Why you may ask? It’s because these same women who plaster these motivational words all over their profiles are the first to talk behind each other’s backs or refuse to help when help can be a mere kind word.*
I started my blog after I had an active Instagram page with a U.S. based following, and I did it as a way to maintain my journal online for my daughter to read when she grew older. I wasn’t about to sit back and witness the demise of everything that should be moving forward, and my main message was and is loud and clear. I am a young working mother, balancing work and family life while finding the time to pursue my passions and take care of myself. I offer(ed) style tips, beauty hacks, food reviews, travel experiences and even the nitty gritty of motherhood. I push myself to share the best content I can, and through that I have slowly but steadily amassed readers from all around the world. I love myself the way I am, flaws and everything and I’m constantly working on bettering myself, the same way I encourage my readers to accept their physical appearance and embrace their uniqueness.
But is that enough? How much can one woman do?
I appreciate genuine women and mothers who feel passionately about putting their lives out there for others to be inspired by, but how about the others who try too hard to show us polished images? Doesn’t that go against what we as a generation of women are trying to portray to our younger counterparts? Blogging and Instagram has made way for real people with real bodies to get a chance to shine, so how come these real individuals with talent and passion are taking a back seat to plastic? If we wanted perfection we’d still be playing with our Barbie dolls, and we’d still be flipping through airbrushed magazine photos of models while feeling horrible about ourselves. Where are the plus sized women of this region? Where are the beautiful imperfect faces? Where are the boss ladies who still manage to take care of their families? The only difference I see is that the images we used to see in print, we are now seeing on our phones. Instead of “regular” women representing clothing brands, there are models, instead of the girl next door shooting a makeup campaign; it’s the perfectly sculpted face, instead of a dedicated influencer styling outfits, it’s a “public figure” whose current pipe dream is being a social media star for the sake of fame.
Do you, said women, have any idea how horribly you’re impacting the young generation? Flaunting staged lifestyles, or maybe real lifestyles, but ones that aren’t attainable to 99% of the population? Instead of showing off your possessions, how about you give your audience tips on how to style their items together? Or do you even know how to style or communicate with them? Or is that the work of a hired stylist that brings the end product to the public? Which brings me to my next question; do you really have the influence you proclaim? This in turn brings me to another issue, when will we in this region get to the point of self acceptance, when will social climbing end, when will the real deal make a breakthrough?
Every time I think, whatever, let it be, then I think again and say: no, I won’t stand for it. Every once in a while I’ll post a series of rants on my Instagram stories or in a caption and find positive responses that make it clear to me that I am making a difference, no matter how small. Imagine if each one of us made this difference, how awesome and empowered would we really be?
Why can’t us women focus on education and work instead of ridiculous amounts of time spent at the hairdresser and makeup artist? I love hair and makeup, and it’s an art, but if all we are seeing on Instagram stories and posts is this, then tell me please, what are all those makeup tutorials for? And tell me another thing; is looking good all we are able to do? Yes ladies, take care of yourselves, this is something important, but for God’s sake, be real! I still cannot fathom why a simple evening or even a day event would require that much time and effort. I cannot believe the hours of each day some women are spending, just do your makeup at home; it’ll take you like 10 minutes. Perhaps this is just the way I think, and it’s my lifestyle, and I’m not attacking the women who choose a more relaxed and pampered kind of routine, but please if you choose to share this with your hundreds of thousands of followers, then also share your normal day to day life. We as a group of influencers are causing these young women to believe that all of life is measured in gifts and events and trips.
If I have said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, education is elementary. That is why I always share what I’m currently reading, what I’m painting, reflections, social criticisms, musicals I watched, old films I find interesting, a bit of sarcasm, gems I find while I travel and so on so forth. Believe me I endured changing cultures, from Lebanon to the U.S.A. and back to Lebanon, adapting, learning new languages, making friends, not fitting in, getting my scientific baccalaureate, and 5 grueling years with summers at the faculty of engineering, followed by 11 years of hard work to get to where I am today, and to be able to live the life I want. Not by nepotism, not by kissing a**, not by being a leech. I work hard as a blogger and ” influencer” is a title I owe to my readers and with it comes great responsibility. I don’t find the need to flaunt my possessions because they don’t define who I am, what means something in our world is kindness, generosity and values. I don’t want to be known as just another fashionista, I wasn’t like this in 2013, and I sure won’t change to fit in 5 years later.
But what I want is from you, working women, students, PRs and influencers is the following.
Dear working women, keep working towards your dreams, life is hard and it isn’t fair, don’t compare your struggle with another person’s online filtered life. We’re all fighting a battle, and no one has it easy, whether you work at an office or are self employed, neither is easy.
Dear students, education is THE most important weapon you have, get your degree first, don’t be fooled by “la vie en rose” some are portraying. But be sure that you can be what you want to be, the world is your oyster and you can be inspired by young women entrepreneurs for post graduation. Today we have an application called Instagram, don’t let that be your target. In a few years something else will pop up, you wouldn’t want to invest all your mental energy and time on something that will be gone eventually. Focus on your studies and then on your career.
Dear PRs, please open your eyes to the relevancy of the influencer you are choosing to represent your client’s brand. Do know the difference between an Instagram page and a blog. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the written word will never die and it takes special skills to convey a message so choose wisely. The reason I refuse to work with many of you which has gotten me a reputation of having an attitude is because although I’m one of the nicest persons you will meet, I am also blessed with intuition and intelligence to see right through your intentions. I am also blessed (or perhaps cursed) with a personality that doesn’t go with the flow nor makes small talk, I won’t suck up to get anything; you appreciate my work, I’m here, you don’t, keep running after your socialites and see where it gets you.
Dear influencers, try to be raw, more real. It takes zero effort to be you, let your inner beauty shine, unleash your personal style, show us what makes you you. I’m not saying I’m the perfect blogger, because perfection doesn’t exist, and I’m not preaching just to sound superior. But ladies, how hard is it to talk to our audience with a bare face? It isn’t. If you’re afraid of judgement because you have acne or any condition that makes you feel you’re not enough, you are enough, lead and be an example.
Do I come across as angry, bitter, sad? In reality I am neither. I am numb.
Numb to the fact that some things never change, but I will forever be a fighter for truth, passion, and being a genuine person.