Curated imperfection — the deceptive tool of lifestyle coaches and influencers
It is just another way of communicating to people they are “not good enough”.
Curated imperfection — it is the trend when social media influencers carefully cherry-pick “flaws” to seem more relatable and reach more of an audience. These flaws are often not accurate or existent.
Now, this might sound controversial and you might say “but it is just body positivity and making people more confident in their skin!” And it might seem like it on the surface, but it is not.
The trend started off on TikTok and is showing little “flaws” like a bit of belly fat or stretch marks, and is built on different poses and angles to create a sense of relatability to women. The reason curated imperfections are problematic it often portrays completely natural traits and features (such as stretch marks) as imperfect, and is actually achieving the exact opposite effect in many cases. It further emphasises the concept of “perfect” and “imperfect” bodies, as opposed to erasing the boundaries between these two.
And as mentioned, the images and videos captured and shared under the guise of “flaws” is just a messy bun, and exaggerated belly roll and carefully selected poses and angles to achieve the desired effect. The bigger problem is that the target audience is a very homogenic one: white, straight, cisgender women, with no consideration for different socioeconomic statuses, poverty and other barriers and problems women are often facing in their lives.
And this is problematic, because the goal of curated imperfection is to be relatable, and communicate “Look, I am just like you” but often forgets about real struggles like trauma, mental health issues or even financial struggles. And when these issues are shown, they are still carefully selected and buried in the pile of this idealistic, picture perfect content.
Through this, curated imperfection is just further adding to the pressure of conforming to a certain image that is portrayed online and gives off the impression that even imperfections have to be “perfect”.
And the issue comes here: the targeted demographics of these posts tend to be communities that are not conforming to the image of the poster and often is taking up valuable space in the body positivity conversation. And while it is positive that more people are participating in the discussion, the issue is that these content creators are using deceptive techniques to create artificial flaws.
So what is the way forward from here?
As always, it is important to critically analyse who we are following online and what effects do carefully curated social media accounts have on our mental health. While there are accounts that genuinely discuss the less perfect side of people’s lives, context is important: is it wedged between a series of perfectly curated and styled images? If the answer is yes, it is time to search for alternative accounts for your desired content.
And if you are a content creator, it is important to be critical of what possible effect could your post have on people who are very different to you and might not be within your target demographics. And just be genuine, and show the actual flaws you might have — however small you might feel it is.