You are what you eat: Curated social media personalities based on consumerism

Sarah Karkoff, Staff Writer

People over the internet may say, “I am in my flop era” or “villain era” or “‘Reputation’ era” or “Mitski era” and so on. Whatever you are going through can be condensed into easy-to-consume terms for the average viewer. In the vastness of social media, people crave originality and nonconformity to put themselves ahead of the rest. This liberation is often created through the commodification of cultural trends. People have used these traits to display certain traits, disorders and hobbies to market how relatable they are. A person’s personality is often constructed based on the social media they consume and the way they consume it. 

Canadian writer Rayne Fisher-Quann explains this phenomena of marketing yourself through cultural consumption to make yourself stand out. Fisher-Quann says, “it’s become very common for women online to express their identities through an artfully curated list of things they consume, or aspire to consume” Fisher-Quann gives several examples of various identities that people construct. Girls who have depression might self-label as a “Fleabag” girl and associate themselves with Joan Didion, Eve Babitz and straight-cut Levis. Instead of describing themselves as people who consume things such as fashion, music or novels, their personhood is created by those things as Fisher-Quann describes. 

In order to free ourselves from ridicule, we package our personality traits and neuroses into aspects from the TV shows we watch and the books we read. The term “era” exemplifies this phenomenon, and there doesn’t need to be a nuance in the personality you are “selling”. While this curated personality creates a common ground between users, their understanding of each other is superficial because it is based on consumerism. 

However, when someone does choose to create nuance, it’s to set their own personal experiences ahead of other people who are “selling” the same brand. The need to sell yourself but still appear relatable establishes itself in a sliding paradigm. You can fulfill a popular archetype, but not too much. Having intrusive thoughts makes you exciting and unpredictable, but having too many means that you’re problematic and believe everything that you think. You can smoke cigarettes and be chic and Lana-Del-Ray-esque but not in the way that makes you seem poor and addicted. 

Another way this phenomenon presents itself is through idiosyncrasies or common actions indicative of something more interesting. Imagine this: a video appears on your feed and it says, “here are five signs you have [insert disorder here]. First, [an incredibly common thing everyone does].” When you scroll through comments there are tons of people saying, “OMG I do this too I didnt realize this was why,” or “My entire for you page is telling me I have this” or “LMAO this is so relatable.” To come out above the rest of the content creators, people pathologize things that are common occurrences. Because as everyone knows, having a mental disorder gains you more social currency. 

These types of carefully organized personalities proliferate outside of online spaces. The VSCO girl aesthetic of 2019 is one of the most iconic and early examples of this. The VSCO girl had large scrunchies, big t-shirts, trendy birkenstocks, hydroflasks with boho stickers and Fjällräven backpacks. The personality type was not specifically characterized by personality traits or hobbies, but rather by products they used or had. Their VSCO girl personality was solidified when the wider public created this archetype. While it was niche for a while, too many girls fell into the trend and it became cliche, basic and corny.  

If you fail to perform this marketing to yourself, you get caught in another internet trap: the non-player character (NPC). If you are not publicly doing something exciting or entertaining for others, you are considered an NPC. The act of being sellable and relatable creates personhood. Without this individual uniqueness, you are not viewed as a full being. 

In other words, you are what you eat. As Fisher-Quann writes, “We consume so much … that perhaps we don’t know what it means to exist as something unsellable.” Peoples’ outward presentation nowadays is heavily dependent upon the ever-changing trends of consumerism on social media platforms.