Giulia is a bright 22-year-old who gladly turns to painting when her friends cancel plans at the last minute, watches endless marathons of Marvel movies before bedtime, and indulges in entire bowls of ice cream when she’s either sad or has her period. Privately, Giulia’s needs and desires dance harmoniously into a sphere of acceptance, a world free of judgment for her authentic self.
Giuli.luli on Instagram tells a different story. She surrounds herself with large groups of friends, smiling happily with captions that read “love these ones” or “my ride or die.” She constantly smiles; staring boldly at the camera as though frozen in a happy face by a botched surgical procedure. She wears glamorous and expensive outfits in stories where she dances sensually. She’s confident and she’s bold. She’s everything that everyone wants to be. The question is: who’s everyone?
Instagram is a pool of digital personas that embody society’s projections. There’s an inherently human need to form meaningful connections to feel a sense of belonging. This search for acceptance gets amplified through a digital idea of who we’re supposed to be. Giuli.luli represents society’s ideal values: beauty, confidence, likeability. The subliminal message to the girl behind the screen is that she will never be enough for this world. Hence, Giulia will never fully embody Giuli.luli.
Technology grows exponentially fast, but culture is the critical element that shapes its dynamics in the world. If placed in the 19th century, the #couplegoals we know today would have showcased a working partnership between lovers. Still, pictures of couples smiling subtly at the camera would have filled the Instagram feed with extended captions explaining their union as blessed by God.
Society’s argument for people like Giulia is then profoundly flawed. Her Giuli.luli persona is not the result of the internal values of a new generation but a society’s external ones. Giulia is not shallow; today’s values are.
Coming to terms with Instagram’s mischievous arena means confronting insecurities we’ve been trying to bury for years. Giulia can decide to quit social media for good and free herself from the dopamine high of ‘likes’ the platform offers, or she can take power back from Giuli.luli and finally see her digital persona for what she really is: an external mask she shows to the world.
Giulia can share accepting parts of herself in Giuli.luli without placing her entire self-worth into a digital platform. She can use the mask consciously and decide the time, place, and modality of her Instagram feed and stories. Lastly, Giulia can find comfort in knowing that when the digital show is over, paintings, Marvel movies, and giant bowls of ice cream will always welcome her home.
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