Social Media and Aesthetics

Social Media and Aesthetics

Photo Credit: Angelin Thipahar, Illustrations Editor

The impact of TikTok and a closer look at what it means to be “That Girl”

Alessia Baptista, Managing Editor

Aesthetic: giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty. 

In his work entitled Aesthetics, an excerpt from Hegel’s “Lectures on Fine Artreads: “For what one man makes, another, it may seem, could make or imitate too, [..] so that, granted universal acquaintance with the rules of artistic production, it would only be a matter of everyone’s pleasure to carry out the procedure in the same manner and produce works of art” (Hegel, 1818).  

A Philosophical approach to a modern aesthetics: 

As Hegel argues, imitation is what contributes to artistic production, as it brings pleasure to carry out the same pattern to produce works of art. In this case, the art I’m referring to, is the concept of aesthetics seen in social media. I will use the words art, aesthetics, and trends interchangeably. Nowadays, aesthetics play a large role in developing our personalities, and undoubtedly, contribute to the beauty of life. To modify Hegel’s terminology to modern day language: aesthetics are considered trends, and imitation would now be considered as following these trends, replicating them as we see fit.  This replication (or following) of aesthetics is what aids in making life more pleasurable and more beautiful. 

Historically, aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dedicated to theoretical inquiry into art and the aesthetic experience. This means that there is a focus on a certain kind of art and the pleasure it brings to oneself. When we choose a certain aesthetic, and simply develop our own tastes, we are contributing to the beauty of our own lives by having a preference for art (not quite a physical painting, but of any medium). 

The modern-day aesthetic, as developed by social media: 

If you’re a frequent user of social media, there’s a high chance you’re familiar with the term aesthetic. Social media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram have been using this term for years to describe certain styles and preferences. More often than not, aesthetics consist of similar themes and colours that are, overall, pleasing to the eye, as the name’s origin suggests. 

For example, the “minimalist” aesthetic means a preference for clean, plain, and of course, minimal detail as possible. In other words, the simpler the better. The colour white is commonly associated with minimalism, as it appears to be a “clean-looking” colour. 

“That Girl,” TikTok, and the impact of aesthetic standards: 

Within the last 5 years, TikTok has developed a multitude of trends under the aesthetic umbrella. Soft girl, e-girl, cottage core, academia, and Y2K, among others, populate the internet and influence viewers to choose one of these aesthetics and simply evolve into it. More recently, a new aesthetic has evolved on the internet: “That Girl.” 

That Girl (noun): the person who wakes up at 5am, works out, drinks green juice, journals and meditates. Every. Single. Day. 

The typical “That Girl” routine goes something like this: wake up early, meditate, work out, drink green juice, and journal. Many TikTok users resend this trend, as it appears to paint a facade as to how to live the perfect life. While social media often paints a false picture as to how people are truly living their lives, it’s important to understand that these short videos on TikTok are a brief insight to the life of the person who posted the video. It is not a depiction as to how you need to live your life, but it is fair to argue that content consumed on TikTok is meant to influence

Unfortunately, people have taken the liberty of painting “That Girl” in a negative light, by posting how-to videos in hopes to teach viewers how to become that girl. Consuming content this way undoubtedly portrays becoming “that girl” as a horrible idea. Especially by curating specific lists of attributes and habits to inherit, this puts an unnecessary pressure on TikTok users that they must tick off things on a list in order to be a certain way, or even become a better, healthier version of themselves. The to-do list approach to the aesthetic surely makes for an unhealthy habit, as it only contributes to the expectations curated on social media, making an even harder experience for young women using the app. 

Most frequently, it appears that women are evolving the “That Girl” trend. More often than not, we see women uplifting other women to gain independence and peace of mind in order to live a more beautiful life, and in thinking about Hegel’s aesthetics, this contributes to the concept of giving pleasure through beauty. (A more beautiful life is a more pleasing one, so creating our own beauty means living a happier life: the ultimate goal of “That Girl” aesthetic.)

Spoiler alert, you already are “that girl”: 

Despite its controversial counterparts, the trend does more good than harm, in my opinion. At the core of this aesthetic, its purpose is to motivate and inspire people to take care of themselves. After nearly two years in lockdown as a result of the pandemic, many people have developed healthy habits that they are now able to incorporate into their daily routines. Healthy habits contribute to a healthy lifestyle, and as a result, a happier self. 

Common “That Girl” practices like journaling and drinking green juices simply provide an example as to how you can incorporate your own habits, and imitate this trend, to make it fit your aesthetic. Ultimately, “That Girl” trend is flexible, as it can be replicated to sustain a specific lifestyle, while other aesthetics curated on social media are slightly more specific, with less flexibility. 

Anyone can become “That Girl” and inherit this aesthetic. It’s simply a matter of living your best life, doing what makes you happy, and, taking a Hegelian approach, creating your own aesthetic. There’s no need to evolve into that girl or succumb to any pressures; you already are that girl, that boy, that person, because every day, you are developing your own aesthetic and improving the beauty of your own life.