o-cynical

Pressure — something that the average college-goer knows all too well. It’s not the classes, internships, jobs and drama, it’s the future. It’s the struggle to find yourself and be successful before entering the work field. Not to mention the bombardment of social media, consistently painting a picture of perfection through career, income and body. Long ago were the days of gold stars and being told everyone is special and worthy. What happened to that? And is all that self-love and contentment making a comeback?

Cynicism has been projected through social media and has shaped many thought patterns of people from college students to children today. Teenage trends of the 2010s and the Covid Pandemic era fixated on negativity. With the oversharing and reposting of quotes such as “Everything sucks” or “I hate people,” it internalizes and normalizes these harsh thinking patterns. Capitulating into a culture that finds cynicism humorous or normal negatively impacts an individual's self-esteem, communication skills and derives alienating behaviors. The overexposure to unattainable, unrealistic lives and expectations has eroded people's willingness to trust. Seeping into personal lives, trust issues have been linked in tandem with social media use.

Furthermore, the rise of social media has helped plant the seed of cynicism, flowering feelings of failure and inadequacy within young adults. With harmful trends on Tik Tok such as body checking and flexing, teens can grow depressed and alienated with an overall negative and cynical outlook on their lives and the future. TikTok, while making these trends more accessible and widespread, did not solely cause these feelings of inadequacy, as sites like Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook sparked the same dissatisfaction and high cynicism in the 2010s. 

However, the reign of negative media may be slowing as a new movement focused on self-love and acceptance is taking over the mainstream. The core of the movement is in positive thought patterns, quotes and art that push individuals to be resilient and take care of themselves. Some common motifs with the art are hearts, rainbows, suns and smiling faces. The colors are bright and cartoonish, creating a sense of childhood wonder and support that was emphasized in toddlers and early elementary school. 

While these phrases and messages may have been taught at a young age, they are by no means childish. The overall concept of knowing self-worth, accepting failure and loving yourself is a common message that teenagers and college students need to hear the most. At this age, students are rife with a significant amount of stress, shortcomings and subsequent negative feelings. By living in a negative headspace, these challenging experiences can lead to self-resentment, stagnation of growth or lack of belief in potential. By surrounding ourselves with positive direct messages such as “you are where you need to be” or “you are worthy,” greatly increases chances of success and self-actualization.

The self-love movement has drawn inspiration from the Y2K trends and styles. The bright colors and bold styles send messages of self-confidence in individuals. The recurring motifs of hearts and butterflies are commonly associated with love and happiness. The unique qualities of these symbols combined with the negative cultures of the past 10-plus years helped pave the way for a change in thoughts and ideals. As society shifts and social normalities are being bent and broken on a daily basis, it is not surprising that people want to think differently, take care of themselves and feel better.

A common way to become involved within the self-love movement is to simply engage the content of ideals. Artists such as the ThePulpGirls and JamieParkerDoodles produce art prints, clothing and other merchandise based on self-love and acceptance. These artists post nearly daily on Instagram, and their posts frequently include different quotes and messages.

Focus on self-betterment is one of the core aspects of the self-love movement. Activities revolve around taking care of individual needs before making commitments and knowing personal boundaries. What makes the self-love movement unique is the fixation on failure in the process of life. Success is not viewed by career, income or relationship status, but rather failure and uncertainty, as they are necessary for success and happiness. Each shortcoming would lead to revealing layers of personality and desire, allowing people to understand and love themselves more.

There is no shame in defeat, there is no shame in uncertainty, and there is certainly no shame in being one’s self. As the self-love movement gains traction, the steady decline of the self-deprecating, cynical normal will be one for the better. Not just for our generations, but for generations to come. Every child, student and adult should keep with them that they are worthy, they are loved and they are exactly where they are supposed to be.

Alexia Woodall is a Freshman Secondary Education Major. You can reach her at alexiawoodall@dailynebraskan.com