The student news site of Southern Lehigh High School

The Spotlight

The student news site of Southern Lehigh High School

The Spotlight

The student news site of Southern Lehigh High School

The Spotlight

Are social media aesthetics stifling Gen Z’s social progress?

Nicholas Andrew (Flickr)
Recent fashion trends seek to emulate glorified diet culture and drug use promoted by supermodels of the past, like Kate Moss.

Baggy cargo pants, micro skirts, and baby tees have all made a return to teenagers’ closets with the fashion world’s revival of the ‘90s. However, more sinister trends of the past are also emerging from the idealization of this time period. As celebrities and influencers seek to emulate a ‘90s aesthetic, the promotion of diet culture and “social” smoking cannot go unnoticed. 

With celebrities such as Kim Kardashian bragging about losing sixteen pounds in two weeks and Lily-Rose Depp posing with cigarettes on Instagram, Hollywood seems to be sacrificing well-being for the sake of aesthetics. What is most alarming about these trends is idols that teenagers look up to are pushing back against the social progress “Gen Z” distinctively advocates for. With celebrities and influencers partaking in these harmful trends, could the pendulum of social change swing back against this progress? 

The ‘90s were notorious for promoting skinny beauty standards, praising the unrealistic body types of supermodels like Kate Moss. Recent pushback against the “body positivity” movement and usage of weight-loss drugs are reminiscent of these same trends. 

Despite the traction the “body positivity” movement gained over the last decade, critics argue that the mindset of the movement glorifies unhealthy lifestyles. “Body positivity” advocates like singer-songwriter Lizzo have received backlash for promoting an unhealthy mindset. These criticisms, however, often confuse skinny for healthy, forgetting that everyone’s body type is different. 

The backlash against self-love movements is coupled with a push for extreme weight loss. The most recent evidence of this is Americans’ use of the newly FDA-approved weight-loss drug Ozempic. Created to treat diabetes, Ozempic has seen a reported skyrocket in prescriptions after its weight-loss effects were discovered. Trilliant Health found in their report “2023 Trends Shaping the Economy” that healthcare providers wrote out over 9 million prescriptions for Ozempic in the last three months of 2022. 

In addition to the uncharacteristic trends of weight loss in 2023, cigarette smoking has made a comeback as well. Despite record-breaking low reports of cigarette use in teenagers, social media has promoted alarming casual smoking habits. This idea stems from smoking a cigarette once in a while to post pictures online or during social outings. However, the nicotine in cigarettes can be addictive after one use according to a study from the National Library of Medicine

“I believe that social media normalizes and influences drug use,” senior Morgan Davies says. “It tries to make it aesthetic and cool, but in reality, it is extremely harmful for our bodies.”

 In an age where teenagers will do anything for attention on social media, these influences are extremely dangerous. It is easy to get caught up in chasing an aesthetic and disregard the gravity of these decisions. 

Outside of social media, celebrities are using cigarettes as accessories to red-carpet events. For instance, young movie star Lily-Rose Depp showed up to the premiere of her new show “The Idol” in June 2023, flaunting her cigarette on the red carpet. Additionally, Cole Sprouse recently smoked a cigarette throughout the entirety of his latest interview on Alexandra Cooper’s podcast. 

With these behaviors becoming more normalized, celebrities are seeking to emulate this time period to accentuate their online and public personas. This recent influx of negative social trends could prey on impressionable youth struggling with their own body image or addiction issues. 

Although social media is currently spreading these trends, some stars are using the internet to push out positive messages for their fans. On “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” singer-songwriter Dua Lipa opened up about her decision to quit smoking for her health and vocal performance. Since her announcements, clips from the show have been spread on social platforms and pictures of her smoking have been removed from her Instagram.

When social media is used to share moments of honesty and vulnerability, it can help people find resonance with the obstacles they face.

“I think if social media is used correctly just like anything it can be a valuable tool for change,” Southern Lehigh High School health teacher Mrs. Megan Kane says.  

Nonetheless, celebrities should be mindful of what trends they blindly follow or time periods they romanticize. Failure to consider the history of these fashion movements demonstrates these icons’ ignorance of the societal issues they stir up. Additionally, the icons that Gen Z grants a platform to, such as Depp and Sprouse, should model the values they hold. Let’s leave diets and smoking in the past for good. 

About the Contributor
Gianna Cusumano
Gianna Cusumano, Features Editor
Junior Gianna Cusumano is a third-year staff reporter and the current Features editor of Spotlight. She is the vice president of her class, the treasurer of Habitat of Humanity, along with being involved in National Honors Society and Mini-Thon. Her hobbies include swimming, writing, and reading. She swims yearound for the high school team and a club team. One of her favorite films is the rom-com Crazy Rich Asians. After high school, Gianna is interested in studying English or Pre-Law in the future.