Irony walks the streets of Chicago’s most hipster neighborhood, Logan Square, where I live. Think Portlandia: Women wear ‘90s-style thrifted T-shirts, floral dresses, oversized sweaters, and Peter Pan collars; men’s curly mustaches and tapered pompadours stretch to new heights of hyperbole. They crowd local restaurants, sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon from a can and capturing it all on social media.
This neighborhood I love has, over the last few years, started to look more and more like a living version of the Hipster Barbie Instagram account. When you constantly watch the couples in coffee shops and restaurants practically having photoshoots for every single outing (perfecting the “candid” shot), all that #authenticlife starts to look little #disingenuous.
As with our lifestyles broadcast on social media, there’s mounting pressure for all of us—even kids and teens—to show how cool we are online. Many of today’s teens have had smartphones since they were in elementary school, and they’re being pressured to define themselves on social media.
On Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, they amass huge social media followings among each other (an extreme example: this 14 year old with 1.3 million Snapchat followers). I see the way this pressure affects younger women in my life, and I worry about how all this social media performance affects their identity. During a recent episode of This American Life, high school freshmen talked about social dynamics of constantly checking, liking, and commenting on each others’ Instagram pics.
Of course, the temptation to perform for each other, rather than to simply live, is as old as time itself. Neither is irony ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more