Before I came to Santa Clara University, I didn’t realize how much of liar I really was. Or how much I bought into dishonesty when it was presented to me, all wrapped up and tied with a bow. Of course, no one wants to think of themselves as naive or dishonest themselves- a fact that would prove for some incredibly revealing discussions in my Critical Thinking and Writing classes over the course of my freshman year.
Dishonesty, though we hate to admit it, is inherent in human nature. Truth, and the perception of truth, will always be skewed in a light most favorable to whomever speaks it.
It’s so inherent that most of us don’t even realize when we’re being lied to, or recognize dishonesty in forms other than words. Perhaps the most striking form of disguised manipulation is in our everyday stores- be it clothing or grocery.
The first quarter of the class focused mainly on discussing the fraudulence of the food and factory farming industry, centered around the findings in Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. This book took a blindfold off that I wasn’t sure I ready to have removed, and successfully forced me to take a hard look at what food packaging and health studies and commercials said versus the product that was being bought. Certain phrases from this book will stay ingrained in my mind forever as Foer discussed the journey of various stock animals birth to store to table, all in heinously graphic detail (one particular quote being “fecal soup”). Learning that “fresh”, “natural”, “cage free”, and even “organic” chicken was really just interbred, caged up, criminally neglected birds that were destined for inhumane and unsanitary butchering and eventually a “disinfecting” bath (a.k.a. fecal soup) was so revolting that as a result of reading it, I became a vegetarian myself. It was a wake-up call in my personal life. Yes, my diet changed, but that wasn’t all.
I wanted to know what I was really seeing, where it came from and what I was putting in and on my body and engaging with, because I wanted to know what I was supporting.
I started seeing this false advertising everywhere– most disturbingly in social media. Instagram and similar online media make it so simple to lie about who you are and propagate a false image of yourself and your life that almost everybody does it. After all, Instagram promotes pages that have a certain groomed aesthetic and users that post manipulated photos, as well as allowing companies to get away with advertisements posted by these same accounts without being marked.According to The Odyssey, “influencers” can make a significant amount of money off of these types of ads, “commanding tens of thousands for one post”.
Being an Instagram user myself, I can attest to the culture of needing more followers and posting pictures that will rake in the most likes and gaining “instagram fame”– and it’s poisonous. Users are constantly bombarded by heavily perfected images, which impact self-esteem and ideas of realistic body image. Instagram models and aesthetic pages essentially teach users of what an ideal life looks like, and quantifies it with likes. In a study done by the Royal Society for Public Health, researchers noted that
“seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out makes young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life”, leading to evidence of social media feeding anxiety and increasing feelings of inadequacy.
So why does it matter? Isn’t ignorance bliss? Why can’t I scroll through my Instagram explore page while eating a Chick-Fil-A sandwich in peace? In both cases, education about what you are supporting with your money defines your ethics. If you’re okay with funding companies that are running unsustainable and inhumane practices on a criminal level to deliver that chicken sandwich, that’s your prerogative. Same goes for social media profiles; if living a life for how it appears on someone else’s screen sounds like a fulfilling one, go on and live it. But if there’s even the slightest bit of curiosity about how true the world’s truth is, chase it.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Access and Diversity, Crane Library, University of British Columbia, 2013.
RSPH. “Instagram Ranked Worst for Young People’s Mental Health.” RSPH, 19 May 2017, www.rsph.org.uk/about-us/news/instagram-ranked-worst-for-young-people-s-mental-health.html.
Edwards, Caroline. “Instagram: A False Sense of Reality.” The Odyssey Online, 14 Nov. 2017, http://www.theodysseyonline.com/instagram-false-sense-reality.
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