Via Unsplash. 

The popularity of microtrends grew at the start of quarantine, with young people looking for a shared sense of community and acceptance through people of like-minded interests. However, it becomes dangerous when categorization completely inhibits self-discovery. 


Especially for those with a lesser sense of self-identity, micro-labels and online personas don’t hold any authenticity to these people themselves. Instead, they’re a reflection of whatever echo chamber of ideas an app places you in. Before, we had a couple or maybe even a single main trend that dictated what we saw, and even what we were sold and marketed.


Now, there are constantly emerging subgroups so hyper-specified that they apply to no one. People can enjoy what they want, but this hyper-compartmentalization hinders self-exploration. If you consider yourself ‘coquette,’ you rave about a book rooted in grooming and pedophilia, while ‘clean girls’ may think that they should go to a Pilates class because that’s what the other people in their self-identified community are doing.


For the sake of cohesion, some take it to such a drastic extent that they take on a character, where they start subconsciously molding themselves into this persona even if it clashes with what they really want.


First handedly, I began noticing that my true feelings towards certain things became suppressed because they “didn’t suit my character.” Then, if a real thought, emotion, or belief existed that didn’t match with my skewed self-perception, I ignored it because I wasn’t comfortable with it. It was taking me out of the dotted lines into new things that my box did not allow for, nor would it accept.


I felt mad at myself for not fitting into my aesthetic when I realized that I didn’t need to match every aspect of my life to a certain label. Why did I care if my music taste clashed with how I wanted to decorate my apartment, or if I felt like wearing something comfortable instead of feeling obliged to fit into my style? Not because of personal preference, but because I subconsciously felt it would ‘break character.’ 


These feelings of comfort, false sense of having ‘found ourselves’ and contentment that we know who we are, is because when we decide, we are simply handed all our likes and dislikes from the get-go. The music people who fit our micro-label listen to, the color they paint their nails, how they dress, what they think is cool and what can’t be. 


As we all know, staying in comfort is the primary thing that hinders progression. The algorithm we seem to be stuck in is so addictive and so strong, that it caters to our biases and exposes us to people and things that are either very similar to us, or what we’re comfortable with. What this does is radicalize us. 


This skewed perception of reality that we’re taking in daily has devastating effects on our self-identity. How are we supposed to forge our real sense of self when all the content we consume every single day intentionally leads us back to the same conclusion? 


These labels we place upon ourselves are no longer based on real experience, and instead based on the content we consume and that we’re exposed to. It’s no longer about individuality, it’s about  polarization. Polarization, or separation, will always be our downfall both as a community and an individual. So please, don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone and be mindful of how you feel about the way you are choosing to portray yourself.


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