I had just cozied up on my awkwardly undersized couch in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when my sister sent me the link to Miley Cyrus's interview with W magazine -- in an email entitled, "Miley's a Crayzo...and Other Thangs." I laugh and proceed to read the article from start to finish.
Despite a reputation for uncontrollable twerk-age and a tongue that flaps outside of her mouth, Miley has things to say and is not afraid to say them. In her exposing interview with W, she candidly discusses what makes Miley, Miley -- her all-consuming love of music, her belief that men have unrealistic expectations of women from watching too much porn, the fact that she thinks children are mean, her propensity towards distrust, and her thoughts about the general inauthenticity of our generation. I was mesmerized by Miley's unaffected frankness and the way she achieved complexity amidst the "f**ck that's" and the "I don't give a sh*t's".
After finishing the article I kept returning to a moment when Miley tells interviewer Ronan Farrow that, "...with, like, Instagram, Twitter, whatever, everyone is a paparazzi now. How scary is that?" I could not shake this thought from my mind -- because she is right. And it is scary.
The second I stepped onto the Michigan campus, or joined any social media site for that matter, I was put under a microscope -- along with the rest of my generation. In a lot of ways, platforms like Facebook and Instagram have created some of the most inhospitable, artificial environments. We not only exploit social media to tirelessly judge celebrities, but we also use it to tear each other -- and ourselves -- apart. Although the finest tools for procrastination, these forums are plagued by interpersonal criticism, constant comparison, and the incessant posting of pictures and statuses in an attempt to socially one-up each other. Every movement we make is superficially censored and then judged by our not-so-forgiving peers.
We Facebook stalk and judge people we know, people we don't know, and people we really don't know. You start off on your own profile and suddenly you're scouring your boyfriend's friend's cousin's sister's ex-boyfriend's godsister's Facebook page and you're like... "How the f*ck did I get here?! But while I'm here, I might as well look through all of her pictures and comment on how if you look really closely, she really isn't as pretty as people say she is."
We tirelessly crop, filter, expose, boost, retouch, redefine and, if necessary, untag our own Facebook photos to project the perfect image of ourselves and avoid the embarrassment we inflict on others. Girls attempt to produce the ideal sorority squat, a booty pop, pouted lips, reasonable cleavage, and the elusive skinny arm for our next profile picture. To be honest, it's exhausting.
And still! Even after all of this editing and reconstructing, it is appalling how much we criticize each other -- her arm looks fat, her nose is too big, her shirt is too cropped, her boobs are too big, her boobs are too small. And the list goes on.
Do we do this to make ourselves feel better? Do we do it because we know others are out there doing the same thing to us? Rather than celebrate each others' differences, we feign flattery and painstakingly hate on one another behind the protection of our computer screens. As Miley touches upon in her article, it should be about appreciating personal style. But in reality, we are all editing the crap out of our image and slowly becoming a walking mass of "Vanna Whites."
We have to stop the paparazzi-esque scrutiny. We have to stop trying to look cute, sexy or confident in a Snapchat and relearn how to authentically be those things -- or embody traits that are actually important to us and may not come across in a photo on Instagram.
I think Miley is onto something. There is a certain genuine nature we have lost as a result of our overindulgent public displays on social media. We rely on platforms that foster superficiality, judgment of one another and exaggerated social comparison. This only adds to our already egocentric 20-something sensibility.
As a result, we continue to stray farther and farther away from who we really are. There has to be some sort of generational attempt to reinvent a world in which social media and authenticity can more commonly coexist.
Follow Hayley Grunebaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hayleygrunes