The Pressure to Perform on Social Media

By Brenda Odria


In discussing the sudden popularization of beauty products in the age of “self care”, it seemed too obvious to attribute some of this aesthetic concern to social media. Let’s investigate it anyway.

Has social media had any influence on the importance of beauty products? Absolutely.  Boomers like to deem millenials “self obsessed” or “narcissistic” and while this is rude, there is a tiny bit of truth to it? Although first let us say that narcissism in the selfie has been around since self-portraiture so boomers need to stop pretending like we are the problem.

I would argue that the obsessive-compulsive aspect that comes with maintaining a social media presence as a performance also makes individuals extremely insecure. Thus apps like facetune find immediate success and usage. At around the concept that “age of the selfie” was being used colloquially, four israeli PhD students had an idea that would allow users to do photoshop retouching on a smartphone. This was facetune.

The idea of airbrushing away what you deem imperfections is intoxicating. Get rid of the pimple, the bloating from your dinner, that double chin – these are what I would change about myself- is what I dream about. This what I always preach about when I say I love instagram. Instagram allows me to present what I deem the best version of myself and there is nothing wrong with that.

Does the discrepancy between facetime and unedited pictures pressure individuals into doing everything possible to look that way? From a cleanser to watching youtube videos about the magic nose filler?

I would argue it does and that plastic surgeons with instagrams increases the accessibility to these procedures.  

In Gender and self-enterprise in the social media age: a digital double bind Brooke Erin Duffy, professor of communications at Cornell University, investigates why female professionals felt compelled to develop and present an online persona that conforms to prescribed ideas of femininity. Naming this the “digital double bind” that is structured through three social media imperatives: soft self-promotion, interactive intimacy and compulsory visibility.

Dutty’s research found that female entrepreneurs felt a compulsion to present their personae as modest, social and an aura of decorum. In that the soft self promotion imperative refers to  a self branding that is subtle, an interactive intimacy that practices relation building and compulsory visibility that places the private self on public display. This is a product of the contrast to a masculine coded nature of entrepreneurship that requires women to engage in this additional unpaid emotional labour to build their career. Dr. Brooke Erin Duffy notes this is a testament to inequality of the profession that places female self-enterprise as an inferior form of entrepreneurship.

This rise of entrepreneurship is seen in instagram influencers who, according to the research, feel a pressure to perform on social media in ways that are traditionally “feminine”. An added pressure that is restrictive as we’ve seen in the past with other gender norms and combined with new possibilities to facilitate this performance, it’s the perfect formula for facetunes success.

Not to say that the pressure to perform on social media is exclusive to a gender, it’s 2019 people, the continued existence of binaries has prescribed certain expectations from individuals. Facetune and other tools gives the user control over their persona and subsequently maybe their career.