It has been my dream since the first time I watched Legally Blonde to speak at my graduation. With a little bit of studying and lot of good grades, I was valedictorian of my graduating class! Yesterday was a super exciting day that I have long been anticipating. I am so proud of the person I have become over the past four years and I can not wait for the next chapter in my life. I wore this amazing marbled dress (shop here) from Topshop. While wearing that heinous graduation gown my shoes had to shine. So, I went with the most "Dani" shoes I could find, these fluffy pink heels (shop here) from Topshop were perfect. Also, check out my dad's amazing seersucker suit!
Coming from a fashion blogger my speech was going to be a little different than your average valedictorian. Since it focuses a lot on social media I thought it would be relevant not only to my fellow graduates but to my readers! Scroll down to the bottom of this post to read it, let me know what you think in the comments!
One of the most valuable lessons we learn at the academy is that nothing is binary. And from that lesson we come to the realization that no choice we make is “right” or “wrong”, but simply the next step. We first see it in the classroom, learning to search for opposition or a “gray-area” as opposed to an answer. We learn to see art as “descriptive” and not “prescriptive” where the answer isn't neatly laid out for you, but instead compels the audience to question what they previously thought. What we learn in the classroom begins to reflect how we look at ourselves. We learn that we can be more than just a dancer, an actor or a scholar, but we can shape our individuality based off all angles of ourself. This can be internalized and reflected through things as complex as gender and sexuality or as simple as being the “smart” blonde. By learning to look past binaries we have the ability to create ourselves in an original way. But with originality comes uncertainty — it is easier to take a path that seems “right”, instead of choosing the more difficult path of creating our self. This is a beautiful but daunting prospect: where do we find validation and comfort, when there is no basis for comparison? If we live everything as it comes, if life is but a sketch for a life never to be lived, it seems easy to lose sight of the importance and worth of each step we take.
Maybe it’s the only child in me speaking but I believe the validation we should be seeking is from the very self we are in the process of sketching. It seems like the closest thing we can get to a physical sketch is social media. Social media is so prevalent in the way our generation sees ourselves, it seems our Instagram “feed” is just as good of a sketch of ourselves as anything. I know what you’re thinking: its just brunch and cat photos, and yes, you can argue that its just a bunch of self-indulgent snapshots, but as social media becomes part of our daily lives and engrained in our culture it has begun to take on new and potentially important meaning. The image we portray to the outside world through social media is often the idealized image of ourself. But what really is the difference between our true self and our selfies? If you go on Instagram right now you will see shots of perfect brunches and beautiful people edited to perfection. But why are we so quick to say that these moments aren’t “real” and are dangerous to our sense of self worth? We can learn a lot from our selfies: we can strive to be the most ideal version of ourselves. Is it really so bad to treat ourselves with picturesque meals or feel confident in our outfit of the day? Once we move away from binary thinking and stop seeing our self and our selfie as different beings, we can recognize that they are both important facets of who we are. There is something aspirational about the moments we choose to share and they can become the sketch for how we shape ourselves.
So the moments we broadcast aren’t meaningless, we share them where we feel like our best self. I believe it’s mindless to be so quick to brush off the meaning behind social media, it’s the perfect “miniature” outlet to test out the version of ourselves we want to create. These tests — changing our username, cropping a photo, sending a photo that will only last five seconds — are all ways we can find our online aesthetic to then apply to our own life. After today we will meet new people and enter new places, but can use our “selfies” as maps to navigate these unknown territories. Simply ask “What would my selfie do?”. Let that simple question guide you to make the most self-aware decisions you can. Using social media in our lives this way does not only apply to how we can think about ourselves, but also how we can think about and understand those around us. The lessons we have learned from our selfie can help us create stronger relationships in the future. We have the ability to view other people’s sketches in a way that was not possible before social media. Social media gives us a lens to look into other people’s worlds and understand them on a deeper level. Once we have developed our own sketch, we can recognize that it is something we aspire to, and we can recognize that to be true in other people. That is, we can understand that although it appears that each day begins with a perfectly crafted latte, they too have doubts and insecurities — but we can now have empathy as they too are creating their own sketch.The selfie is no longer just for Kim Kardashian, it is an important facet of all of us. It is a medium to better understand ourself and to find empathy for those around us.