We’ve all heard the stereotypes of millennials. That we are vain slaves for social media who only find joy in amounts of followers we have or likes we get, but guess what, we are humans too! I know, crazy right? It’s these stereotypes that sparked the idea for this project. For my aesthetic experience, I decided to explore how my generation defines beauty and how the presence of social media has changed that definition. I have always been fascinated by beauty standards and how different people define beauty and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to explore this concept while also using my creative side and taking a series of portraits that attempt to portray that idea.
The first step to this project was getting people on board. By doing this I made this survey (feel free to fill it out if you feel like it and have some time to kill) and sent it to multiple Facebook groups (mainly to theatre kids because we don’t shy away from opportunities to be in front of a camera) and asked people to fill it out. The most important question on the survey was “what is the first word that comes to mind when someone says the word, ‘beauty?” The word they chose would ultimately be painted on their face for the photos. I ended up getting 25 responses to the survey and 12 people split between 2 days who were available to take part in a photo shoot. I had a backdrop and lights set up and an array of baked goods I used as payment and bribery. I’m very proud of the finished product. The photos have not been retouched as I feel like it would create a barrier and defeat the purpose of this project. Anyway, here is a slide show of the finished photos!!
(There’s no sound because I’m boring and didn’t have time…yay)
From doing this project, I have come to the conclusion that my generation generally views beauty as something completely unrelated to someone’s physical appearance. Words like individual, compassion, internal, unique, and kindness were extremely prevalent. These are the words of some people who chose to give some additional comments regarding beauty at the end of the survey:
“Learning to believe you are beautiful is more important than getting told you are beautiful.” – Hira Lalani
“I am a firm believer that beauty begins at the heart, for traits such as compassion and kindness truly reveal one’s beauty and take precedence over physical appearance.” – Waleed Hakeem
“Beauty isn’t something you can necessarily see through the means of Instagram or Snapchat; beauty defines a person as a whole – not just their appearance.” – Claire Lundin
Though there was the common theme of beauty not solely being a physical thing, physical beauty still seems to be something of great importance. When asked “on a scale of 1-10, how important is physical appearance to you?”, 28% of people said 6 and another 28% said 7. Though physical beauty may not be the most important thing to our generation, it still has a fairly large impact on our daily lives. Then social media comes into the picture. One of the questions on the survey was, “on a scale of 1-10, how much do you care about how many likes you get/followers you have?” If we go with the stereotypes, the average answers would expectedly be anywhere from an 8 to a 10. In actuality, the majority of people (24%) said 4, hence the introduction. Social media has become a gigantic part of every day life, but that doesn’t mean it has made us more narcissistic. It has changed society a great deal, but not necessarily in the terrible, revolutionary way that older generations may see it.
Okay, how the heck does this relate to philosophy?
Because I am dealing with a large group of people, it’s impossible to say my whole generation’s view is just like *insert philosophers name here*, and the majority of the answers that I got on the survey don’t really connect to any particular philosopher we have talked about anyway. If we’re to generalize how this generation sees beauty from my findings, we could say that we believe that internal beauty is much more valuable than physical beauty, but this isn’t really what the philosophers we have studied talk about. They mainly talk about art and beauty in the physical sense. There is one particular question that creates a connection to a couple of the philosophers we have talked about. As i stated before, the most important question in the survey is “what is the first word that comes to mind when someone says the word, “beauty?”, which is why this is the one that I wanted to have a visual representation of. Even though 25 people filled out this survey, there was only one word that was repeated. The vast majority of people all had a different answer. This supports Descartes ideas of beauty being in the eye of the beholder and this quote from Hume found on this page on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others.” (Hume 1757, 136)
All in all, this project showed me how beauty is subjective and that it comes from the heart (I know, super cheesy, but it’s my truth). If you have kind and welcoming personality, you will be seen as beautiful by many. Also, millennials are 100% not robots.
Worldle representing all the words people said came to their mind when they thought of beauty