Social media penetrates our daily existence, and so does the carefully curated mask we exhibit to the world. We currently live within a “culture of self-disclosure”, where our daily actions are perceived to be vulnerable, emotionally charged insights into our insecurities and ‘true self’. This constant self-branding as a compassionate, insightful, and self-realized individual peppers every feed: the humble brag image with the hashtag #blessed; vague-booking about gratitude in the face of perceived slights; disappearing images equally suited for a confessional booth or fifty cent peep show; heartfelt essays about trying to keep it real.
Every instance perpetuates the idea that it’s so good to be you. The curation of self, the treatment of social media as though we are all celebrities, is an elaborate ruse taking place in the Facebook-era, where Zuckerberg himself states that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” The confusion of how much to share, with what audiences, and the “growing pressure ‘to be yourself’” permeates the conscious mind of millennials.
We deliver an edited version of ourselves so we still appear real within the virtual world, hidden behind the safety of a multitude of screens. Social media is an endless performance, and impacts our identity, relationships, and selective memory. Is the self a fundamental lie? Are we simply cold and calculating? How does trauma factor in to the way we curate ourselves? What happens when curation exits the virtual realm?
As an artist, I have become endlessly fascinated with this mask I wear – the inescapable reality of a millennial. The disingenuous mask of vulnerability and feeling I display online to seem personable; the casual indifference I display to the physical world. My curation of self is far more prevalent offline than online, so I question if I can merge these into a single identity. My calculated performance of self is dictated through my experiences, including physical and emotional trauma; creating an intimate void that I seek to feel with likes and comments in the digital realm.
Having mastered the art of speaking while revealing nothing to those around me, my paintings have evolved to speak what I have left unsaid. Expressed in numerous ways: the Sarah Bahbah inspired film subtitle pulling from the depths of my darkness and the movie of my life; the Snapchat confession sent into the public abyss; the text message conversation reliving IRL events (with edits); internet slang superimposed over my face; the larger-than-life versions of myself and my identities. My relationship baggage is visible for all to see.
My work has evolved from the psychology of self being a personal experience to being dictated through a lens of social media. Many reasons for this are my own experience with social media, being a public figure (if you will) via my own virality in 2016. Being so closely examined by strangers has prompted a deeper exploration of relationships and identity as impacted in the era of social media, when self-worth is measured in likes and comments. Part of this expanded performance as an artist involved eradicating the very posts that caused my virality, leaving a slew of broken links and inaccurate media coverage in my wake - it's own variation of performative art.
I question how we choose to curate ourselves in the face of trauma, or how we edit our identities to seem appealing to potential partners. How much of this performance is authentic? Am I simply playing theatre, acting as though I play myself? Or is my existence simply a new level of narcissism in this generation me?
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