Student Reflection – Picture Perfect (8.1)

by Andrew Williams

For my digital remix project, I wanted to explore the differences between the way we present ourselves on social media and the way we live in our daily lives. We follow Instagram star Alexa Calhoun in her seemingly perfect life. Her daily travels are like something out of a stock video and are almost too good to be true. We see her extravagant internship with Vogue, her loving boyfriend, and her flawless cooking, but what we also see is what is really going on behind the screen. In reality, Alexa is struggling with depression and while her life is falling to pieces the only thing that’s keeping it together is the constant admiration from her millions of fans. The notifications keep rolling in as Alexa sulks through her daily life, becoming more and more constant until they simply become too much to handle.

I began my project after a close friend sent me a group photo from a weekend house party and asked me to edit it before posting it on Instagram. He didn’t want me to perform minimal edits to adjust the exposure but rather wanted me to manipulate the photo to make him look thinner even though he was already the average weight for his height. Instead of studying for his exams and preparing for an upcoming presentation, he was far more worried about the implications of not posting something from a Friday night out.

After browsing your Instagram feed and seeing nothing but fitness models, celebrities, and associates that always seem to be the life of the party, it’s easy to fall into the trap of searching for validation through social media. People have fallen to their deaths to get exciting selfies and I personally know ofsome people who have bought followers and likes on Twitter and Instagram just to prove to the masses that they are loved. I know of multiple people who will only send messages through Snapchat so they can increase their scores and others who will record through an entire event for their Snapchat stories just to show that they were there. When we live only for the validation of social media and are tempted to record every move we make, we aren’t really living at all.

The “fear of missing out” has now been officially deemed “Facebook Depression” and this new mental health risk is on the rise according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (Whitbourne, 2017). Browsing Facebook on your night in and noticing that all of your friends have decided to join for dinner without you would logically make you feel excluded. Even though you may have more followers than any of them, you still can’t help but wonder what else they’ve been doing without you. Maybe you should get dressed up and post something too so that people will know you’re not sitting around all alone. Over time, you find yourself thinking more and more about how everyone else seems to be enjoying life, at least according to their timelines, and you’re struggling to keep up. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites this as the moment when the virtual borders of social media start to crumble, and your self-esteem begins to waste away (Whitbourne, 2017).

The fading line between what we see on social media and what we experience in real life has a detrimental effect on our real lives and that’s what I wanted to capture with this project. While viewing this remix, we are meant to see the parallels between what Alexa experiences and what she posts which ultimately reveals that a posed and artificial lifestyle in search of virtual validation does nothing for us. While Alexa has gained millions of fans that openly express their admiration for her, she still can’t help but cry herself to sleep at night. But in the end, she still feels the irresistible urge to keep adopting this perfect persona online to keep up appearances as if it were an addiction she just can’t beat.

Overall, I really enjoyed creating this project to tell a story purely out of passion for the subject rather than having to meet and check off a list of requirements. While I have done minor video editing before, I had never really dived into the more advanced features offered by applications like Premiere Pro. I’m used to doing more photo and design work, so using keyframing so extensively throughout the project was very new to me. Additionally, I learned a few new key commands that made making cuts and placing audio more precise whereas before it was mostly just guesswork. I’m very pleased with how the final project turned out and hope that others will be able to look at Alexa and identify with her struggle to find validation from social media in our current digital society.