Microaesthetics dangerous for young adults, not liberating

Graphic by Rachel Woon | Mercury Staff


The trendy micro aesthetic lifestyles cluttering the internet might seem appealing and harmless, but they are actually obstacles to true individualism.

We live in a society where it seems like a necessity to identify with a categorical lifestyle – an aesthetic. Most aesthetics took root in social media during the early 2010’s and began with basic ones you may already recognize: “2014 Tumblr,” “E-boy” or “E-girl” or just about anything you can put the word “core” after. Fast forward to 2023, and the primary aesthetics have evolved into an entire universe of micro aesthetics. Especially popular among young adults and teens searching for their own sense of style, micro aesthetics have flooded the internet at an overwhelming rate.

With the growth of these micro aesthetics, endless young people are finding pieces of identities online to claim, slowly piecing them together until they can maybe, just maybe, find an identity of their own. Perhaps you’re studious – great! Are you a dark or light academia kind of person? Chaotic academia, perhaps? Or maybe you’re more of an athlete – if you’re big on going to the gym, you better decide if you’re considered a “gym bro” or a “pink pilates princess”. There are endless choices, and because micro aesthetics are made of unrealistic, constantly rising standards, the practice of taking one on has become dangerously unsustainable. In fact, the countless details of micro aesthetics encourage consumerism and aren’t realistic enough to become lifestyles.

Nobody can expect to find success – or an identity – by applying curated aesthetics to the real world. Personally, you may not be actively pursuing an aesthetic – maybe you’ve only tried a couple green juice cleanses in the past, or perhaps you bleached two front locks of your hair in 2020. Surely that doesn’t put you at the mercy of micro aesthetics, does it?

In a way, it does.

Of course, trying new things is an experimental part of growing up. You haven’t lost your entire identity by entertaining a new favorite color or outfit style, but there is harm in trying to take on an entirely new lifestyle solely for the sake of an aesthetic. Micro aesthetics may seem fun or even enlightening at first, but that’s only at the beginning. The moment you attempt to pursue a trending, curated lifestyle – an unrealistic lifestyle – is the moment you begin to bargain a little bit of your individuality as payment.

In reality, the true harm of micro aesthetics lays in the power of boxing yourself into one. The idea of having your own aesthetic is often associated with taking on an already existing one, but in truth, your personal style doesn’t need to align with popular or niche aesthetics online. Aesthetics are nothing more than ever-changing social constructs – so don’t get caught up trying to identify with them. Trying to label your lifestyle as “rainy-day-yoga-girl-classic-grunge-core” is reductive to your individualism and can’t possibly encompass the nuance of who you are. Free yourself from the constricts of aesthetic labels.

Because of the endless number of pre-existing aesthetics online, it may seem complicated to develop your own sense of style, but it is possible. When it comes to fashion, don’t only go searching for pieces that recreate an outfit you saw in a TikTok video. Look for individual items that suit you and flatter you visually, even if they aren’t popular or considered “trendy” online. And if a clothing item or accessory istrending, don’t buy it immediately, – you’ll be surprised at how quickly it falls out of fashion.

When it comes to the style of your environment, instead of seeking a cohesive set of matching items to form a perfectly curated Pinterest room, fill your walls with memories and photos unique to your life. Music posters that make you smile and decorations you appreciate because of your own taste, not because you saw them in a YouTube room tour. Most importantly, when it comes to developing your own style, refrain from connecting the lifestyles of popular influencers to the items and clothing they own – as much as people like to think otherwise, tangible items are never a straight shot to suddenly living a dream “aesthetic” life. Fragments of micro aesthetics may serve as inspiration, but pursuing one to wholeheartedly embody your way of life will only take away from the traits that make you unique.

In theory, individualism should thrive because of the infinite library of characteristics that social media micro aesthetics have brought to light. In reality, individualism suffers because micro aesthetics restrain these characteristics and idealize them with unrealistic standards. Life isn’t something we can control, and it won’t follow the guidelines of something like dark or light academia. Take pieces of what you see as inspiration and nothing more. Embrace anything and everything that makes you content as an individual, and don’t be surprised when that brings you far more happiness than anything curated for your phone screen.


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