Faux Sophistication

Text by Kendall Stark
Photos by Nydia Hartono


In the eyes of Generation X, the Millennial Generation is one of excessive privilege and little gratitude. Born in the years between 1982 and 2000, we were born into an age of rapid technological advancement with the worldwide web expanding at our fingertips. To some, we’re lazy, self-centered, and thoroughly addicted to social media, too entranced with Facebook likes and Twitter followers to be bothered with anything else. 

But why then, despite the presence of these outlets of artificiality, does our generation seem to have an infatuation with things from decades past? Walk into any Urban Outfitters store and you’ll be surrounded by an array of vinyl records, leather-bound journals, and Polaroid cameras. These things do not provide instant gratification in the way the internet does, but for the twenty-somethings of today, signify a certain appreciation for patience and tangibility. 

For some members of Generation Y, a slower lifestyle is almost necessary in order to balance the ever-persistent pull that technology has on our lives. Keeping up with social media as a millennial is far from a leisurely pursuit - it can be utterly exhausting. According to a study commissioned by Facebook, 69% of millennials check Instagram at home, 39% while going to sleep and 33% when they wake up. As opposed to other social media outlets, Instagram succeeds in acquiring the attention of users throughout the entire day. By simply scrolling through our Instagram and Facebook feeds we’re faced with not only the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) phenomenon, but a standard glaring back at us that seems impossible to fit. These tangible things - journals, records, polaroid pictures - offer an escape from a world so convoluted by technology.

But for every millennial that appreciates the sound of vinyl records and the taste of gourmet cheese, there are some that consume these things to project an aesthetic - to show that they too, are “above” succumbing to a trivial, digitally-dominated lifestyle. It’s these people, who use their Instagrams and Tumblrs as a canvas for their “authentic” lives who exemplify the concept of faux sophistication.

Making headlines recently has been Socality Barbie, a satirical Instagram account that aims to exemplify the paradox of illustrating genuity through social media. In her description, Socality Barbie touts her unique qualities and priorities - “adventurer, coffee-drinker, Jesus, authentic living.” Her feed is flooded with photos of herself doing everything from exploring the forest to posing with books and coffee in her unmade bed. It’s an ingenious idea that for many of us, hits uncomfortably close to home.

This obsession with genuity and good taste has spawned a contest as to who can live a more “authentic” life, which is the essence of faux sophistication. We’re not really living an authentic life - we’re just very good at portraying it through pictures. Part of what makes browsing through Socality Barbie’s account so off-putting is that generation Y-ers can see a little bit of themselves in every perfectly orchestrated post. True authenticity is not an aesthetic, or something that can be achieved through Instagram photos with lots of empty space - it’s derived from making experiences without “image” as the end goal.