Baby, You’re So Sweet

*Names have been changed to protect the subject’s identity. 


Anna dyes her shoulder-length, naturally black hair a striking shade of turquoise. Her hands shake consistently, her lips rest pursed. She has thick, dark brows that frame her angular face. Anna does not spend her evenings in the ways other 18-years-olds do; Anna is a sugar baby.

When Anna turned sixteen, her parents cut her off financially.  This meant she had got accustomed early on to paying for everything on her own. Like a lot of high school seniors, Anna stayed up late, researching ways to pay for college. One night, she came across an article about women in the Ivy League stripping to pay their way through school. She thought if these girls could do it — she could, too.

Anna moved to Manhattan in August of 2015 to attend NYU. The summer before she moved to New York, she discovered Seeking Arrangement, a dating website designed to connect sugar parents with prospective sugar babies. The interface is simple: sugar daddies, mothers, and babies create profiles free of charge, and all parties can view and message one another. A sugar relationship may ensue, in which a baby is paid by a daddy or “momma” for dates, conversation, sex, or all of the above.

After researching sugar babies, Anna decided that becoming one would be easier than working at a strip club. As a sugar baby, she wouldn’t have to work long hours, and she could also have the luxury of choosing whom she worked with. So, with a bill due in November, Anna created an account on the Seeking Arrangement website.

“No one is paying for my college except me, because I work and I live as a sugar baby,” she told me at the time, “that’s how I’m paying for my college. That is all me. I could be doing it for extra cash. I’m not.”

For young women at NYU, the term “sugar baby” is used lightly, even comically. It’s relatively easy to come across female students who joke about becoming sugar babies to pay the bills. I sat in a study room at NYU for an hour-a-day for one week to see how many times students talked about sugar daddies. On Monday night, a student named Claire searched online for plane tickets she would have to buy to travel to her study-abroad location. Laughing, she said, “Imma get myself a sugar daddy! I gotta get them coins!” On Wednesday, another student talked about how she recently made an account on Seeking Arrangement to pay for an expensive textbook she needed to purchase. On Thursday, a third student asked the girl who was sitting across from her if she would like to go get something to eat. The girl replied, “I can’t spend money. I need a sugar daddy for food.” With so many people talking about sugar babying at NYU, it’s safe to say it’s become a new fad.

Anna ultimately received a generous scholarship. Her tuition is covered in full — the only bills left are for campus housing and a meal plan. However, housing and meal plans average out to about $15,000 per year at NYU. So if Anna were to take out subsidized loans, she would graduate $60,000 in debt. People like Anna feel that becoming a sugar baby is their only option. It allows for quick cash, which leaves time for internships, homework, and friends— essentially, the life of a normal college student. And sugar babying isn’t so bad… right?

Seeking Arrangement’s Instagram page features photos of the glamorized life of a sugar baby: dashing older men, loads of cash, designer shoes, handbags, and jewelry. But after taking off the rose-colored glasses and stepping into the actual life of a sugar baby, it becomes rapidly clear that most real-life sugar daddies are extremely misogynistic. The life of a sugar baby isn’t all fun and games (or in this case, Gucci and Prada).

One of Anna’s first sugar daddies was an art dealer who lived in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. She was paid $500 for sexual relations, and was expected to stay over at his apartment from 10PM to 10AM. “He pretty much fucking treated me like the fucking maid,” Anna said, adding that he made her make the bed in the morning, but not before lint-rolling the sheets first. After they ate breakfast, he ordered her to clean the table and leave everything spotless. “I was just the fucking maid in the morning,” she said.

Anna explained that, in her experience, most sugar daddies “are just looking for ignorant girls… who don’t know any better [than] to just fuck them and go.” She says many sugar babies don’t know any better than to just have sex for pay. In Anna’s eyes, in order to be classified as a sugar baby rather than a prostitute, there should be relationship-esque qualities in the exchange. “[Sugar babies] are basically a live-in girlfriend. That is a fucking luxury service, and a lot of guys will try to cheat these girls out: sleep with them on the first date, and then give them like a hundred bucks. That’s completely wrong.”

She went on to explain some of the lessons she had to learn on her own: “You’re supposed to discuss allowance. They’re supposed to take you out to dinner in public, meet in a public place. You discuss money first, and a lot of them will not be down for that.”

Seeking Arrangement has popularized the concept that sugar daddies are debonair, successful businessmen who simply do not have time to go out looking for women. While this may be true of a select few, the reality is that the majority of sugar daddies need to pay girls to date them because they are emotionally abusive. By hiring a sugar baby, men are essentially paying off the emotional commitment that comes with healthy relationships. Wealth, the glamorization of sugar daddies, and sites like Seeking Arrangement provide wealthy men with an outlet that facilitates and validates obtaining young girlfriends — while this exchange benefits some young women, it also has the potential to be emotionally abusive. Anyone interested in becoming a sugar baby should carefully consider their decision. 

Anna says she puts on a new persona when she goes on dates with sugar daddies. She becomes the misogynistic ideal of feminine qualities older men idolize. When meeting a potential daddy, Anna wears short, tight dresses with heels; rather than the hippie style, flared jeans and cropped shirts she opts for on a day-to-day basis. She spends hours straightening the curls out of her blue hair, layering on foundation, outlining her eyes, elongating her lashes, and applying lipstick before going out on dates.

“As a sugar baby, I believe that I should be allowed to be who I am, but you can’t fucking do that. It’s a business. I’m here to make money… It does become hard,” she admits.

Getting paid for sexual acts is an intrinsic aspect of sugar babying for most people in the trade, which creates marked parallels to prostitution. But the term “sugar baby” undoubtedly softens the occupation. By softening the occupation, joking about entering the business becomes a normalized topic, and this makes it easier for people to transition into that line of work. 

If you decide to become a sugar baby, remember to stay safe. Meet in a public place, and don’t forget to tell a friend where you’re going and who you’re meeting with.


Muscle Memory

The following content may be triggering to those affected by sexual harassment/assault. 


I quit the local play when I was fourteen, because another cast member sexually assaulted me.

Of course, at the time this wasn’t what I thought. I thought he grabbed my stomach fat and touched my breast because he had a crush on me. Because, I had been told, that’s what boys do. When I told him to stop it, he said, “But you’re smiling,” and he wasn’t technically wrong. After he had taken his hand and bounced my breast up and down, I broke into a nervous smile. I stayed nervous after rehearsal when he walked with me to the parking lot.

“Who’s the boy?” My dad asked when I got into the car.

I was also nervous a week later when this boy asked me to go to the movies with him and I answered, “Okay, but just as friends.”

“Why just friends?”

“I don’t see you that way,” I answered. 

“Think about it,” he said, before ruffling my hair and walking off.

So, I quit the play and didn’t tell anyone why. If people pressed for an answer, I gave vague excuses about having too much homework. I told him I was busy and hung up when he called me. He never called again. I had it all figured out. No one had to know.

I pushed all of this to the back of my mind after it happened. I even went to go see the play. I thought that it wasn’t assault because he didn’t jump out of the bushes and pin me against the side of a building in a dark alley. I thought that it wasn’t assault because I didn’t stop it from happening in the moment; I gave him my phone number; he asked me on a date; I laughed at a joke he told once; he said I smiled when I told him to stop.

*  *  *

A year ago, when the #MeToo movement first began to go viral, it all came flooding back to me… a hot rush of adrenaline and blood to my cheeks as I felt his hand on my breast. The anxious unease that I felt for the rest of the day afterwards. The fear that other cast members would think I was “easy” for spending any time with him at all.

For the first time, I was able to find the right words for what had happened to me. I was also able to forgive my past self for thinking she had done anything to invite this boy to touch her without her consent. But once I had forgiven myself, I boxed the memory back up and stuck it in the back of my brain.

Then Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

I wasn’t exactly surprised. I knew he had the votes. But I was devastated, and the memory I had carefully boxed up was once again ripped open. This time, I focused on a new detail: at the time, a friend of mine in the play told me that he had done similar things to other girls. A group of them brought it up to the director, and she said that he was “harmless” and “had a disorder where he didn’t realize he was being inappropriate.”

I can think of a few other men who may have that disorder. One of them is sitting on the Supreme Court. Another is in the Oval Office.

Women have always been expected to ignore the predatory behavior of men, and if that’s not possible, to make excuses for it. Not only that, but we’re also expected do everything we can to prevent men from being creeps in the first place.

I never get in a subway car unless there’s at least one woman there already. I never take the subway alone after midnight, which means I make sure I have cab fare. I pray that the driver (almost always a man I don’t know) will drive me straight home and not be a creep about it. I walk home with my keys between my fingers like claws, just in case I need to fight someone off. I politely smile and nod at men who acknowledge me as I walk past them, terrified that they’ll lash out if I ignore them.

It’s ingrained. I barely even think about doing these things anymore. But I’m fucking tired, and I’m so scared that putting a sexual abuser in this high-power, lifelong position will embolden even more men to assault.

Hours before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, my boyfriend and I sat outside a bakery near my apartment with coffees and pastries. A woman sat on the next bench over, wearing a New York Yankees hat. She looked to be about my age. “You’re a big Yankees fan?” A much older man passing by stopped to ask her. My ears pricked up and I watched the two out of the corner of my eye, the way I always do when I see a man approach a woman he doesn’t know. It’s muscle memory at this point.

They made small talk. She sounded a little bored but not nervous. Okay so far, I thought. He wasn’t raising his voice or saying anything nasty, but I kept listening just in case. After a few minutes, the man went on his way. The woman was looking down at her phone with a neutral expression.

I exhaled.




The following content contains explicit descriptions of assault which may be triggering to those affected by sexual harassment or violence. 


The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was 16-years-old.

I was a junior at a prestigious boarding school that I had begged my parents to let me attend. That night was the second weekend of the school year. It’s over three years ago now, but I still remember what the early fall night air smelled like as I walked home from the gym with the boy who assaulted me. I still remember the strange, bitter tang of soap in my mouth as I scrubbed my tongue in my friend’s dorm room. 

The second time I was assaulted, I was still sixteen. I still went to the same school, and this time it was a different boy who made me feel so horrible that I spent all night scrubbing my mouth out with soap until I was gagging.

When I left high school, I thought I was leaving that part of my life behind me. I was no longer going to be the girl who had a panic attack in the fluorescent-lit bathroom, digging her nails into her forearms.

I thought that I could choose to be happy, to leave my experiences with violence in the past. I started my freshman year at Dartmouth, and immediately joined a group that does work with sexual violence prevention. I met amazing women, and I felt like the work I did was making a difference. At a college with an overbearing drinking culture and a dominant Greek system, I felt my friends and I were making campus a little safer, even if we only influenced a few people.

Then, I was raped at Dartmouth.

It had happened to girls I vaguely knew, even close friends. But when it happened to me, I finally realized what it was like to feel unsafe at all hours of the day. Sure, it was helpful being around people who I knew cared about sexual violence prevention and cared about me, but no one can spend all-day-every-day being protected. Alleged rapists walked freely not just at frat houses or dimly-lit parties, but through the dining halls, libraries, dorms. They are in the places we study, sleep, and eat. Nowhere felt safe for me anymore. I was terrified and unhappy — but that was not the worst part.

The worst part was that people knew and still know that this kind of thing is happening, and they choose not to care. Not caring is easy. Being complacent is easy. Being friends with perpetrators is easy. What’s difficult is acknowledging one’s own participation in the vicious cycle of harm.

People don’t care. They show up to soccer practice, to frat meetings, to parties, but not to anything that might — God forbid — make them uncomfortable. I hope that some of you will read this (hello frat boys!) and I hope that it ruins your day, just like every single day of my life is ruined by the harm I have experienced. Unlike the rapists who so easily run away from the fact that they are rapists, I can never run away from the fact that I am a survivor of sexual violence.  

In places that are overrun with sexual violence, we need men to step up and do the work. Not because women don’t want to do it, or are tired of doing it, but because people listen to and respect men. I wish this weren’t the case, and I’ve tried to do prevention work while ignoring this fact. But the simple truth is that men listen first and foremost to other men. Their teammates, their fraternity brothers, their friends. Women can share their stories —  I can share my story — but people don’t give a shit about things unless it starts to affect men.

I believe men at Dartmouth care about preventing sexual violence insofar as it helps their own reputation, or the reputation of their fraternities. For most of these men, the issue is not life and death. They don’t spend their days on campus ducking into bathrooms to throw up because they saw a rapist, or running home at night because they’re terrified of being alone in the dark. Some men at Dartmouth will say that they’re “passionate about sexual violence prevention,” then shove your head onto their dick so hard that you’re gagging.

A friend of mine once said that he “couldn’t even get the guys to show up to paintball,” much less care about sexual violence prevention (sometimes frat brothers play paintball together for some fun, non-hazing bonding). Somehow, rape and paintball have become analogous in our world — something the guys might have the time to worry about, but probably not.  

I organized a march against sexual violence over the summer with my best friend who is involved in the same prevention organization as me. We took turns screaming from a megaphone, holding our signs above our heads as people joined in the march. For about an hour during that August night, it felt as though other people maybe gave a shit about the innumerable women who were (and are) violently raped at Dartmouth. But the next day? Not so much.

My friend’s rapist had the audacity to show up to our march. He stood with his fraternity brothers, yelling that “rapists are not welcome here” while our march snaked down fraternity row and across campus. He left the march after a short while, probably to go get shitfaced with his brothers and rape someone else.

The boy I had been sleeping with all summer did not show up to the march. When he saw me a few days later, he said that he was at a party, getting fucked up. “You would have hated it,” he told me. “Thanks for coming to the march,” I replied sarcastically. He slipped on his ray bans and changed the subject, because he didn’t have to care.

So, as one frat brother once asked me, “what are some implementable night-to-night solutions?” Well, show up to paintball. Start thinking about sexual violence — no, caring about sexual violence. And not just because some guy who isn’t your frat brother assaulted your friend’s girlfriend or your little sister. Care because sexual violence ruins the lives of women on Dartmouth’s campus and around the world. Care because you are all complicit —  no, culpable — in the cycle of violence that rules my life, and the lives of countless other strong, amazing women.


Listening To My Body

The following content may be triggering to those affected by eating disorders and/or body dysmorphic disorder.  


We’ve heard that confidence is one of the most attractive qualities in a person. Someone who doesn’t have many insecurities, someone who can approach another with a smile and conversation, and someone who walks around with their head up and shoulders back. But how do you become confident? How do you just wake up one day and decide that you’re happy with what you look like?

One of my biggest issues the past few years has been my body image.

I believe being signed to a modeling agency for roughly a year was a major contributor to the undiagnosed body dysmorphia that I may have. On top of that, having a social media account that has access to hundreds and thousands of models, artists, and “Insta baddies” has not helped. What has helped is accepting that my body was made to be cared for, nourished, and treated well. It was not created so that I could skip a meal for a smaller waist, destroy my knees while I squat to further tone my butt, and to be treated as if the only purpose my body served was to be some flawless object that supposedly grants me acceptance or perfection. To this day, I am not quite sure why I care so much. 

Only just last year did I start to make the shift into a healthier, healthy lifestyle. I was working out two years ago, but for six days a week I was doing too much cardio, straining my knees, and crunching as if the “pouch” on my stomach wasn’t supposed to be there. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that pouch is supposed to stretch out enough to hold a child. So it definitely serves a purpose and wasn’t created to destroy.

During that year, I devoted myself to eating beans and rice for dinner and cutting out pizza, cake, and ice cream. I found myself spiraling downward. There’s nothing satisfying about waking up in the morning to check on your body before doing anything else. Most people wake up, stretch, meditate —  instead, I was walking up to the mirror, pulling up my shirt, and checking how thin or toned I looked. I feared going out to dinner with friends, anxious about what I could order that was low carb, low sugar, low fat. Indulging in pizza, my guilty pleasure at the time, was something I’d look forward to a week in advance. I’d plan the day when I’d allow myself to have it, and then after eating two slices, I’d usually walk into my room and cry, scared this moment of “weakness” would setback my progress.

While I don’t blame social media entirely for this sick obsession with being toned, scrolling through and seeing beautiful, glowing women definitely contributed to my constant body insecurity. Even reminding myself that roughly 60 percent of these photos were Facetuned and Photoshopped did not help.

I’ve always had this extremely confusing relationship with my form.

Growing up, I despised being thin. I was teased constantly, told by boys I had crushes on that I was “too skinny to date.” As I grew up, I worked to gain weight. I hit the gym, drank protein shakes, and ate as much as I could. After a few months of that, when the weight added on, I went back to wanting to be thin. I was never satisfied with what I was seeing.

Today, I can say I’m happier with myself than I was before. I haven’t consistently hit the gym in about a month. Some may label me as a lazy college girl that can’t find time to be healthy, but to me, this is progress. My 19-year-old self would have an absolute panic attack if she missed two days of the gym, or inhaled the amount of tortilla chips that I just had. Eventually, I’m going to find myself back there and on a routine, but this time, hopefully my mindset will be healthier. I still have my days, but there is something about not obsessing over the way you look that’s relieving.

I’m happy to say that these negative thoughts are not as constant as they were before. I always told myself I needed bigger lips, a smaller nose, a bigger butt, a slimmer waist… the list goes on. Now, I look at myself and have accepted that my flaws are only flaws to me. If you let go of the voices that label parts of yourself “bad” or “ugly” — maybe you’re stop viewing them as flaws. Unfollowing the insanely “perfect” models on Instagram helped me with this. I no longer wish that I looked a different way (well, maybe sometimes), and I’m finally free from the insecurities that held me back from living as happily and fearlessly as I could.

So what can you do about this? The feeling that you don’t look good enough to wear a two-piece swimsuit, that jeans accentuate your “muffin top,” or being scared of eating something covered in cheese. Well, some of these things helped me heal: 


  • Surround yourself with people who share the same goals as you. If you know someone trying to recover from an eating disorder or someone battling body dysphoria — work together to make progress. Go out for pizza and stay with each other until the next day. Go for jogs together, talk about how happy you are with the parts of your body that you once considered flaws.


  • Stay out of relationships that hinder your progress. Being told by someone you care about that your butt is too flat, your arms too hairy, or that your crooked tooth looks funny is mentally harmful. Take a step back and think about the way life would be if you cut out this toxic criticism.


  • Stop looking in the mirror so often. It does nothing positive. Use the mirror to apply your makeup and get ready, but if you are catching yourself staring in the mirror too long, tell yourself to walk away and find a distraction: Netflix, a book, talk to a friend — don’t get on social media.


  • Wear clothes that you are comfortable in. If you’re having a bad body image day, pair an over-sized hoodie with some platform boots, wear a big t-shirt with a pair of shorts, or put on a loose sundress. Wear things that will make you feel good.


  • Last but not least, do NOT overwork yourself. Listen to your body, people! Doing so will lead us to the right decisions. This goes for everything. If something in you is saying, “I’m tired, please take a nap instead of running 5 miles” or, “I think you want dark chocolate and wine,” — please listen. Everything should be in moderation, of course.


You are not alone in whatever insecurity you are struggling with, and even the people you least expect to be going through it — are probably going through it. You are loved and so are your love handles.


Who Is Brett Kavanaugh?


In June of 2018, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired after having served 30 years on the Supreme Court. With his retirement, he left one of nine spots on the Supreme Court open. The court is the highest federal court in the United States, and its primary function is to interpret the constitutionality of laws, acts, etc. Their rulings have a major effect on the upholding or suppressing of civil and human liberties. Supreme Court Justices serve for life and are nominated to the position by the sitting President. To be confirmed, the nominee must approved by the Senate. Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh; here’s what you should know.


So, who is Brett Kavanaugh?

Brett Kavanaugh is currently a justice for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has served on that court for over 12 years and has heard many major cases. Historically, he has ruled in a significantly conservative manner. 


What’s an example of a major case he’s taken part in?

Last year, Kavanaugh was part of the three-justice panel that heard the case Garza v. Hargan, which had already been appealed by the government and had gained significant media attention. The case regarded an undocumented 17-year-old’s right to seek an abortion while being held in federal custody. Kavanaugh voted in favor to keep the minor in custody until she could be assigned a sponsor—which he did not see as placing an undue burden on her right to abortion. Effectively delaying the minor’s termination by over a month. Ultimately this decision was overturned by a larger court, which Kavanaugh again disagreed with. The minor was eventually able to attain her abortion with no further delay. Kavanaugh is believed to be pro-life (anti-abortion).


He’s been accused of sexual assault. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, wrote a letter to Congress members accusing the Supreme Court nominee of pinning her down on a bed, attempting to remove her clothing, covering her mouth when she tried to scream, and sexually assaulting her at a party when they were both teenagers in the early 1980s. She initially requested that her identity remain anonymous, but then went public with her story.

Kavanaugh has denied these allegations. Ford has agreed to testify before a Senate committee regarding the assault.



What are the chances that he is confirmed?

It was previously believed that the confirmation vote would be close. The Senate is currently made up of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, and it was suspected that the vote would be split between the parties (Kavanaugh has a more conservative ruling record, making him an unattractive candidate for liberals), although there are still many Senators who have not taken a clear stance. 

However, the recent sexual assault allegation has received extensive media and its affect of public and Senate opinion of Kavanuagh remains to be seen. It is worth noting that Justice Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by his former employee, Anita Hill in 1991 during his confirmation process. He sits on the Supreme Court today.


If confirmed, what impact would this possibly have?

Although Kavanaugh’s leanings in the past do not necessarily dictate his possible future on the Supreme Court, we can look to them as a guide. Whereas recently retired Justice Kennedy took a moderate stance regarding social issues, Kavanaugh has shown significantly more conservative leanings. If he’s confirmed, the Supreme Court would be compromised of a 5-4 Republican majority. There is large concern that—given that a case regarding the right to abortion is making its way up to the Supreme Court— Kavanaugh could be the key vote in overturning Roe v. Wade (the landmark case in which the Supreme Court ruling made abortion a constitutional right in the U.S.). It’s also highly possible that, if Roe v. Wade is not completely overturned, there could still be partial changes made that would make seeking an abortion much more difficult.

Additionally, if confirmed and assuming he is guilty of sexual assault, a message will be sent to survivors that their attackers will not be held accountable.


Would abortion become illegal if Roe v. Wade was overturned?

It depends on the state. According to an analysis done by the Center for Reproductive Rights, 22 states are at high risk of abortion being completely banned if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Another 8 states are at moderate risk, while 21 states seem to have additional laws in place that will protect the right to abortion regardless of the Roe v. Wade ruling.


Does the public have any say in Kavanaugh’s confirmation?

Ultimately, the Senate will be voting to confirm/deny Kavanaugh’s place on the Supreme Court Justice. A specific date for this vote is yet to be set, but it’s rumored to be taking place this fall. If you want to weigh in, call your state Senators and let them know why you think Kavanaugh is fit/unfit to serve on the most powerful court in the country. 


*Roni Bowen is an editorial intern for Killer And A Sweet Thang. 


Self Love?

One of the greatest ailments of millennials and Gen-Z’ers today is image: body image, perceptions of our intelligence, and overall social reputation. An extremely self-conscious generation of tenacious dreamers, we often question ourselves during even our smallest movements of the day. For example, I utilize the window reflections on streets to check my appearance. 

I walk out of my house, dorm, or workspace and I ask myself if I’m okay. I don’t ask myself if I’m feeling okay mentally or emotionally, but rather if I’m acceptable. Am I okay to be seen in the presence of others? How am I perceived by the people around me? Do I fit these standards or am I an anomaly? 

It seems like today’s society is progressing towards a culture that embraces self love and a wide variety of shapes and sizes—so why is it that I focus so much energy on fitting a set of model-like aesthetics that are only going to go out of style anyway? The answer is simple: I have not learned to accept myself on my own terms. There’s a lot of pressure in naming myself the sole proprietor of my happiness, and these days, ever-changing standards of societal validation are not helping.

It seems obvious, but self love has to come from yourself.

Sure, it is extremely empowering to see such a revolutionary movement of acceptance sweeping the nation. Companies like Aerie, with their new lingerie line Aerie Real and even Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, with its Beauty For All makeup campaign—remind me of the progress that society is making in expanding beauty standards and teaching young women to embrace themselves the way they naturally are. However, I can’t shake the feeling that I am still relying on celebrities, models, and social media influencers to teach me how to accept myself. Societal norms are starting to reform but, reformed or not, why are we still basing our self worth on fulfilling norms?  That’s hardly self love, is it?

I’m beginning to learn that I am my only reliable source of self validation and acceptance. So while it absolutely is a positive thing to rejoice in the body positivity movement and applaud companies like Aerie and Fenty Beauty for taking those essential steps forward, we also have to find the things about ourselves that we can appreciate without relying solely on that outside influence. For example, when was the last time that I listened to my Spotify playlist and complimented myself for having awesome music taste? Or the last time I ate an amazing meal and thanked myself for fueling my body plentifully? Positive self talk is key in determining how we feel about ourselves.

I have realized that current body image reform has also had other effects on my self esteem. While different body shapes are being celebrated, society is still setting limits and conditions on what’s a “normal” or “womanly” body type. Now, instead of frail wrists and toned legs defining womanhood, it is accepted and encouraged to embrace curves. Rather than being another option for how a woman’s body can appear, however, “curves” are just an addition to an already complicated body equation. Keep the slim waist, add a thicker ass, subtract the stomach rolls… what’s left is the continuation of an already exclusionary body culture.

This culture quickly becomes dangerous when eating disorders will affect 10% of college-aged women and 10-15% of all Americans. They manifest when there is a constant need to assert control over one’s self and find things that need to be “fixed” or “perfected.” I have personally struggled with this vicious cycle. Within an eating disorder lies the cruel reality that there will never be a finish line or point of satisfaction. I would look for validation where it wasn’t applicable—such as in Instagram models who serve as physical representations of the current unachievable body ideals—and then would further strive for numerical goals that would reset themselves whenever I “reached” them. Like today’s ever-shifting expectations, I was constantly finding new standards for what my ideal body should look like. It was a never-ending acceleration that did not slow down until I learned to rely not on what my body type or weight should be, but on loving myself based on the body I have. I had to find ways to be happy that were not dependent on what jeans size I wore.

The smiling faces behind the iPhone screens also have a story. Contrary to popular belief, celebrity body icons and other public messiahs have real lives, real emotions, and living, breathing bodies different from ours. People are people, not just images on a screen, and when we buy into socially endorsed ideals for inspiration and validation, we strive towards physical goals that have nothing to do with us as individuals. We lose the human aspect of it all.

An example of this screen-to-reality dissonance comes with Alexis Ren, a 20-year-old model and social figure who has amassed a significant social media presence. With 11.7 million Instagram followers, Alexis’s public platform is a hub for “fitspiration” and public admiration. Because of the reputation of her platform, it came as a shock to many of her followers—me included—when, in an interview with Cosmopolitan in May of 2017, Alexis revealed that she had actually been struggling with a severe eating disorder for years. The smiling L.A. model girl who effortlessly posed on beaches and showed off her washboard abs while eating pancakes was not, in fact, happy with her “perfect” body.

Similarly, the relationship with her model boyfriend portrayed on both of their Instagrams was a mask for her personal struggles. In the Cosmopolitan interview, Alexis noted her influence in the media and how “… I felt like my body was the only reason why people liked me.” The model found herself in an endless cycle of under-eating, eating a little bit, and then feeling guilty and over-exercising to compensate. It was astounding to me that someone so beautiful and “perfect” could be feeling the same way I did. For me, Alexis was physical proof that the motivations for eating disorders and other dysmorphic insecurities were cripplingly irrational, and therefore could not be lived with.

When I scroll through my Instagram feed and longingly examine these celebrities’ lives and bodies, it is easy to turn around and compare their supposed happiness to my own. What I miss is what’s going on behind the scenes. I misinterpret the lives I look up to. No matter how far I go to perfect myself, it will never be enough because I’m not loving myself on my own terms. Self love cannot realistically be on terms with societal ideals or my eating disorder.

At the end of the day, seeing other people love themselves—or present an image of happiness—will not help you love yourself. Happiness and self love require positive self talk, appreciation, and acceptance. The world is a hard enough place externally without internal criticisms. I have realized that I am virtually in charge of how I feel about myself. If I can take mere seconds out of my day to thank my body and realize what an incredible feat it is to make it through the day and thrive in this modern chaos, there is no reason why self love shouldn’t be achievable.


DoubleTap: Pink Bits

DoubleTap is an interview series highlighting creatives whose work explores sex, body, and identity.


The world of Australian artist Christine Yahya is a colorful cornucopia of different body types. With 62K Instagram followers, there’s something deeply endearing and approachable about her page, @pink_bits, which features a mix of hand-drawn portraits, doodles of things she loves, and a number of commissions. In a time where conversations about body positivity are rising and the movement is being increasingly co-opted by corporate entities, Yahya’s accounts acts as an authentic celebration of “the bits and shapes we’re told to hide,” honoring the bodies of people who have inspired her in addition to nameless characters she has created in her mind. What results are beautiful humans of all shapes, genders and sizes who embrace their differences, such as varicose veins, underarm hair, and keloid scars. Her work is almost like a visual record of our collective humanity, in which we can see ourselves shining back at us.

In this interview, we speak with Yahya about this body of work and her process for creating these illustrations.


What inspired you to launch this project?

Christine Yahya: I created the initial illustrations one night whilst drawing for leisure and took the pressure off myself to create something so serious. I’m often drawn to viewing and creating art that explores the human experience and human form. So, I took out some bootleg Copic markers I got from Armenia, and tried to find a reference photo to base my illustration and curved lines on. I ended up just wanting to see my own curves represented on paper, and actually drew from my own naked reference photos.

I quite liked what I had drawn—which for someone with a long and complicated history with their body was a wonderful feeling. So I wanted to share the illustrations, and created an Instagram page that night on a whim and continued to upload more illustrations in the [same] style. I continued sharing in the hopes other people would enjoy them, maybe see themselves in the pieces, or feel that same sense of representation I did.


How long have you been developing this body of work? How do you hope to grow this series in the future?

Pink Bits started around October of 2016, so close to 2 years now! It has gone by so fast. In future I’m hoping to quite simply create more and represent more people through my work! I’d love to develop and create more things for people to have and hold, that let them feel represented and understood by. I’m currently in the midst of setting up a new website and store, which will hopefully be up and running soon. I hope to collab with wonderful creatives, and work with people or companies who I admire and the respect the work that they do.


What is your process for creating these illustrations? Do you draw from real life? Do you make these digitally or by hand?

When approaching my sketchpad I come with a trusty pencil and eraser, and lay down the basic line work, and then apply color using Copic markers. I then scan these and add any details that need a digital touch, and prep the piece to share online—so a mix of by-hand and digital. I draw most from reference images, my own photos or experiences.


What has surprised you most about doing illustrations around body image and identity?

I’m surprised at just how much my perception, sense of self and self-love has shifted and grown whilst creating these illustrations. By creating illustrations to represent and celebrate as many people as I can, I’ve learned to celebrate myself too, and see things I once saw negatively on myself more lovingly. The way I view and approach my body and mind is completely different to the damaging place it was in just a few years ago. I also have a much stronger sense of self, self-understanding and appreciation that was definitely not there before.


How do you use your artwork to champion inclusion, diversity, body and sex positivity?

My illustrations at their core aim to champion each of these things. I do a little self-assessment of my feed regularly and try to consider who or what I haven’t represented yet, or haven’t represented in a while; I then approach my paper and get sketching, making sure I’m representing as many people and communities as I can. 

I approached my followers at the beginning of 2018, and asked them who or what they’d like to see represented this year—I often refer to this list too. I also keep an eye out for wonderful people who I’d love to draw or are doing great work in various communities.


What do you hope viewers will take away from seeing your illustrations?

Representation and self-love are the key things I’d hope viewers would feel when seeing my illustrations. I hope they feel understood, seen and celebrated.


You can follow Christine Yahya on Instagram here.

What Gets Lost In Virtual Translation

If I could go back to reference the text history with the last guy I was interested in and point out all the instances where what I was trying to say was lost in translation, I couldn’t. Why? Because it’s not there! I deleted it. I was unsure about my responses, so I didn’t want to be reminded of it. There’s no evidence that we communicated, not even a trace.

When your identity is a little grey bubble, it’s easy to be whoever you want to be. You can take seconds, minutes, hours, or even days to come up with something to say. There’s an endless amount of silence at your disposal to choose the right words. If you don’t know what something means, you can mull it over, or get second opinions from your friends. Often, a text that is sent doesn’t capture the intent of the message.  It adopts a myriad of identities: your best friend, the co-author, the self you think is most appealing—an exemplary and idyllic knight in shining armor.

The longer time ticks after a text is sent, the more the anticipation builds. The anxiety of a virtual ellipsis that appears and vanishes gives me heart palpitations every time I’m texting someone I’m romantically interested in. It usually leads me to powering off my phone, manically pressing the home button every two minutes, or hurling it across the room.

Read receipts are all the more confusing. When the message I’ve sent has been seen without a reply, I often feel dejected. Did they intend for their reader to see the message as read? Was it oblivion? Did they get sidetracked? It’s interesting that I feel this way about read receipts when I myself have them turned on. Personally, I keep mine on because it holds me accountable to respond right away. Otherwise, I’ll probably never get to it out of laziness. I know some other people keep them on as an antagonistic power move or to play games.

Last weekend, I asked my friends their opinions on what I should text the guy I’ve been talking to. I’d only spent the night with this guy a few times, and didn’t want the text to sound annoying or intrusive. I realize this was overly analytical, but I was stumped on what to say. There was “Hey” plain and simple, “Heeey” with three E’s, “Hey Hey”, “Hi”, and a number of other greetings. Then, the question of whether or not I ask him a follow-up question: “How was your weekend?” The majority ruled yes, and I sent it.

Although it should be normal to text someone you’ve been intimate with, I felt like the underdog. Maybe it was my own ego combusting, but it seemed like a wearisome attempt at holding a conversation. I do this thing where I label myself as the lesser one, rather than treating myself as an equal to my partner. In my head, I’m the clingy one if I initiate conversations. Of course, I understand this is a futile train of thought.

Evidently, so much is lost in translation when you’re using a keyboard alone to communicate. I’m cringing at the frivolity of the whole thing, but I can’t help but psychoanalyze my half of the conversation. Impressing someone I’m trying to woo via text message is quite literally an art form. Matching their syntax to the intended tone of voice can be a labyrinth, especially when the situation may already be a game of cat and mouse.

I’m only using the dating dynamic as an example because it’s an experience that’s most fresh in my mind. I’ve encountered similar issues in texting with friends: sounding cold or removed because I used lowercase, excluded emojis, or was active on social media without responding to a text message.

It’s not so much what gets lost in virtual translation, but the ambiguity of voiceless communication. To me, reading the text message of someone I’m getting to know is the equivalent of decoding something foreign.


New York City’s Most Famous Top

#Clout is an interview series exploring the love lives of social media influencers. 


Rembrandt Duran is the sort of urban queer legend only New York City could breed; more a product of who he does than what he does. Mention of his name can occasionally elicit eye rolls, but such reactions only support his claim to fame: everyone knows someone who’s fucked the 27-year-old.

Years of Grindr groundwork paid off in 2017 when Vice dubbed him the premier queer matchmaker, revealing that he kept a detailed sexual rap sheet of the 550 men he’s “networked” with. While having your number nationally publicized is many people’s worst nightmare, Duran fully embraces his hyper-sexualized persona. In fact, he’s built an online brand around it. Over 13,000 eager subs, jealous doms, and hetero voyeurs flock to Twitter for New York’s most famous top’s hot takes—common threads include premature ejaculation, shitdick, and his “extra medium” sized member. A recent highlight read, “I’ll never get over gays picking dudes with nice muscles over dudes with nice dicks. Those pecs can’t hit your prostate.”

Fan or not, it’s hard not to appreciate Remy’s commitment to being uncouth. And between the shock factor and humor, he’ll slip in a tweet or two about getting tested. We stan a woke sex god.

It seems his haters live only online. After a little investigating—you don’t have to barhop far to find conquests of Remy’s—sources suggest the key to Duran’s appeal is really just an old school combo of looks, charm, and kindness. Nothing seedy here, folks.



You’re a well-known personality in the NYC queer scene. Eileen [Kelly] has called you a Grindr sex god, and Vice kind of said the same thing. Is it difficult to have this reputation? 

Remy: I love it. It’s definitely good and bad. Mostly good because I like to be an outspoken person about that sort of thing. There’s been very few negatives, [only] it takes some people a little longer to trust that I’m not looking for just sex. But it’s never really impaired my dating. You can be a very sexual person and still be capable of intimacy and love and all of that kind of stuff. 


How do you sexually identify?

I sexually identify as gay and also bisexual. 


What do you mean by ‘also bisexual?’

I’m mostly homoromantic but bisexual.


Do you still hook up with women? 

I don’t actively search for women. I’m definitely more gay recently. I’m not made to feel uncomfortable in straight places, so I ask myself if I had a girlfriend, how would that even work? I see myself dating men and having sex with women. 


Did discovering you had a sexual interest in men coincide with your sexual awakening, or were you sleeping with women beforehand?

I was definitely sleeping with women beforehand. And nothing came of it until guys started hitting on me, and I was like, Oh, cool this is something else that’s possible. But I never saw myself romantically attracted to men until I actively chose to try. The first couple of times I went on dates with men, I really wasn’t comfortable with it. I actively chose to really pursue [dating men] and really make this something that I like and I did. I didn’t give up on it. 


Now here you are, a Grindr sex god. Could you talk a little bit about what it was like to come to terms with your bisexuality in a culture that tends to invalidate that identity? 

As I’m getting older it’s kind of harder to really identify with the label “bisexual.” I’m not afraid to call myself gay, even though I actively have sex with women. I live a gay life. I’m immersed in gayness, and I would feel uncomfortable being in a heterosexual relationship. So, I need to re-evaluate what bisexuality means to me, and if it’s important to label myself as that. What is bisexual life? What is bisexual culture? Does that even exist? 


Have you received any pushback for identifying as bisexual from your friends or family?

Not furiously. My friends make little jokes here and there, but just for joking’s sake. 


Do you prefer dating apps or meeting people in real life?

I definitely was the king of dating apps for a while, like if there was a high score on Grindr to be had, I would be like top three. And it was like that for a few years, but recently I deleted all of my dating apps. I’ve just been meeting people in person and going on my waiting list of people who I owe dick to. I’m in like dick debt, I owe a few people.


Why did you decide to delete the apps?

It had to do with a breakup. When we first broke up I was like, I can do whatever I want. But as things got more serious in the breakup, I was not interested in just sex anymore. I want to meet people the old-fashioned way and have more intimate sexual encounters instead of just sending a dick pic, the ‘pound me out and then leave’ [sort of thing]. Which usually is what my experiences with Grindr are. I never used to masturbate, so now I just masturbate.


So before now, you would just always rely on IRL encounters to relieve yourself?

Yeah, it was like every time I masturbated I regretted it. It was just over too quickly and a waste of a nut when I could have actually had sex with someone and could have been more satisfied. And now it’s just switched because now I’m like,  Whew, glad that’s over. I can go back to not wanting to have sex.


Was sex something that normally distracted you in the past?

When I first came out it was definitely a distraction.



Have you ever sent a DM to someone trying to hook up with them? 

Not like overtly. The context is key. I’m not just gonna be like, “What’s up, send dick pics,” to a stranger on Instagram. I’m gonna be like, “Yo what’s up, you’re mad cute.” That’s more my approach. 


Has anyone sent you a DM? 

All the time! I understand [that I] put out this persona of this person who has sex all the time. But again, context is key. Just because I have an open-door policy doesn’t mean you can just walk in, I still have agency over my own sexuality, my own body. It doesn’t mean I want dick pics all the time or ass pics. 


You get a lot of unsolicited nudes? 

Yeah, I’m never offended by it. I understand other people can be grossed out and feel like their digital space has been invaded, but for me, I’ve never been offended by someone sending them. Even if it’s not the most flattering of pictures, I’m like, Wow, this person is wild. I just find it amusing. 


Have you ever felt catfished? 

Oh, yeah. Once. 


What happened? 

Actually it was twice. Once, my Grindr glitched and it switched the chats with two different people. Another time it was like… she looked like her pictures, but it was clear that she knew her best angles. I still definitely had sex with her. She went from like a 9 to an 8, and that’s still a form of catfishing.


You post a lot of ‘top’ content, so do you primarily identify as a top? 

Yeah, I identify as a total top. I’ve bottomed maybe three successful times in my life. Not to say that I could never bottom, it just hasn’t been right for me and I’ve never been in a relationship with anyone who has inspired me to bottom for them. So, until that happens, I’m definitely a total top. I joke around [online about being a top], because it’s funny. I obviously respect everyone’s labeling and sexual position. Like the whole “top” thing, I don’t really identify as a top, you know what I mean?  


Only a top would say that. 

*laughs* A progressive top! 


How important do you think sex is in a relationship? 

I think it depends on the people. I think a healthy sex life can be having sex once a week. Or a healthy sex life could be having sex three times a day. It depends on the couple. It’s all about communication and knowing your partner. 


Have you ever felt the need to lie to get out of a sexual situation? 

Oh, all the time. I literally wish I could take my dick off when I go out to the club and when someone’s like, “You should come home with me tonight,” I’d be like, “Oh, shit. I don’t got my dick on me right now. I left it at home, maybe some other time.” But yeah, I’ve definitely had to lie, but not with a partner. 


Do you think social media makes it harder to be monogamous? 

No. I don’t think so. But I would feel weird about them posting thirsty comments on someone’s hot selfie. A ‘like’ means nothing to me, but if you’re over here [commenting] on someone else’s picture—you’re buggin a little bit. Ultimately for me, that’s just social media and as long as there’s a conversation and everyone can be mature about the situation, I don’t think it should be a problem. 


Have you ever had to talk to someone you’re with about how they were acting online?

I’ve never had to had that conversation with other people, but significant others have had to have that conversation with me. I don’t wild out, I just like pictures and [comment], “Cute” or “Wow, go off,” you know what I mean? I think I’m just a naturally flirty person.


You’re speaking to this sort of online romantic literacy that goes on, is this something you’ve always been cognizant of? 

It’s definitely a learning process. I used to just say whatever and people were like, “Are you crazy?” And I’m like, shit, that is a thing people care about. I learned to have conversations with people before we were romantic, and keep my comments to a minimum. 


This is very prevalent within the queer community. Do you have a theory on why we’re so keen on thirst traps and thirst follows?

I guess it’s just an obsession with how people look. I think social media makes that more available to people. And everyone likes attention, so the more you do it, the more attention you get, the more happy you are. It’s easy, everyone likes attention.


Can you describe the best sex of your life?

It was either with someone who I was super in love with or something really wild. Like something you only thought was possible in porn. So it’s a bit of both; I’m not like ‘intimate sex is always the best sex’ or ‘crazy wild sex is the best sex,’ it’s both for me.


What turns you on in a partner? 

Sense of humor, someone who doesn’t take themselves seriously all the time, someone who is comfortable with their body where they don’t need to be perfect and pristine every time we have sex. I had a partner who had to be 100 percent sure they were good down there, and they would have to stop [to ask], “Am I good?” I had to be like, “Relax, we’re in a relationship.”


Do you have any advice for feeling insecure in the bedroom? 

I have advice for dealing with insecure people; being patient and re-assuring them that it’s fine and that they don’t need to feel that way. I don’t really feel insecure in the bedroom, honestly, but it’s all about making other people feel comfortable.


Is there a sexual fantasy that you have achieved? 

Yeah, lots.


Can you name a few? 

Having like one bottom and seven hot guys come over, catering to one bottom. I’ve always loved doing one girl with multiple guys. One time my friend was with two girls and he asked me to come over and we swapped and switched—it was just amazing. There are a few really good ones, but those are the ones that stand out. 


Do you have any other thoughts on dating in the New York City queer scene? I know you’ve tweeted that you don’t usually go on bad dates. 

I’ve never been on a really bad, awful date. I’ve been on boring dates, but I’ve never had a horror story of someone being terrible and crazy. I’m just like—who are you meeting? How are you meeting these insane people, how do you not see that they’re insane already? 


You’ve never walked out on a date?

No. I’ve never been like, Wow, get me out of here. 


You’ve had really good luck. Who are you dating?

I know! I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve been dating in NYC for at least 10 years. I’ve never had a terrible date. I think dating in NYC is amazing because there are so many people here. I guess I am just really lucky, or I have really good intuition about people.


You’re very sex positive and open about your sexuality. Were you always this way?

 A lot of my mom’s best friends when I was growing up were all gay, and very loud about it and they liked to make jokes. I always found sexual humor really funny. And not just saying penis and laughing but being able to talk about your sexual experiences. I just think it’s interesting to talk about.



Photo by Rembrandt Duran by Heather Hazzan. You can follow Remy on Twitter and Instagram at @remdelarem. 

Social Disconnect

In a society that has aggressively and rapidly normalized technology and social media, it’s heavily debated whether or not these newfound habits will have detrimental side effects on our mental health and sense of self. As we slowly accumulate facts and understand societal changes in behavior—the hours spent online, emotional reactions to content, pressures to be involved within inherently isolating platforms—the implications appear grim.

Take yourself for example. How many minutes (hours!) a day do you spend essentially living through the lens of someone else’s life? A 2015 Pew Research Center study finds that 92 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 use the internet every day, with 24 percent reporting they go online “almost constantly.” The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) reports that 91 percent of 16  to 24-year-olds use the internet for social media. About the rise in social media platforms and access to internet-centric technology, Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, stated: “Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues.”

This excessive time online sparks risk for more than subconscious infatuation—it destroys the attention span, negatively affects our ability to measure self-worth, and increases levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. The more time we spend on social platforms, the more we take away from the activities in life that keep us mentally healthy and physically active; we narrow the window of potential time furthering our passions, education, and self-development.

Through endless advertisements that blur the distinction between organic and sponsored posts,  selfies, five-star vacations, romantic relationships, new jobs, and expensive, materialistic things that we constantly flip through, the media has put us under a spell.  Society is shifting into a reality less present with our interaction between friends, family, and significant others; these are conversations and connections becoming more and more interrupted by scrolling, recording, posting.

The most striking contrast in platform users is girls and boys. According to Pew, teenage girls use social media—particularly visually oriented sites—for sharing more than boys do. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat provide a vast opportunity for advertising organizations to directly influence the population, which affects social standards. Unrealistic body image standards, thinness and fitness ideals, and hyper-sexualized women have been prevalent in movies, television, and magazines for the past century and these pressures have seamlessly crept into the social universe accessible at our fingertips.

This constant stream of images and videos portraying a preconstructed ideal of beauty starts to become the expected norm for appearances and behaviors, a damaging pattern that occurs with enough influence to pit what’s real against the distorted, objectified women the media has created. Young girls who are exposed to cunning marketing tactics begin to internalize these images and set unrealistic expectations for themselves.

When apps like “Retouch Me: Body & Face Editor,” “Body Plastic Surgery,” and “Facetune” remain popular across all age groups, it’s no wonder we’re falling into an age of body image disorders. While the media is trying to expand representation of women of all shapes, sizes and colors, there’s no denying the pressures that continue to exist for both men and women to conform to specific body types. It is imperative that we filter the content we view online into realistic standards of the human body. Not only must we control our media consumption, we must also stray from portraying ourselves online as something that we’re not, physically or emotionally.

A study conducted by Florida State University found that a group of women who were asked to browse Facebook for 20 minutes experienced drastically greater body dissatisfaction than those who spent 20 minutes researching rainforest cats online. As award-winning expert on body image Claire Mysko explains in relation to the study, “While social media is not the cause of low self-esteem, it has all the right elements to contribute to it. Social media creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviors really thrive.” Mysko also warns that, while social media gives young peopleespecially girls, the feedback and validation they crave, it can also “serve as a catalyst for more insecurity.’’

Society has become trapped in harmful comparisons to others without any accurate method of measuring our peers’ capabilities beyond a perfectly lit, deceptively angled selfie. These comparisons can lead to unhealthy levels of jealousy and lowered self-esteem and self-worth. They also tend to drag users into portraying their lives as better than they really are in attempt to one-up perceived “competitors.” This mentality has become a catalyst for a post-more-feel-better-about-yourself behavior, where one seeks gratification in the instant and short-lived, endorphin-igniting surge of notifications from digital followers. Social media has become an entirely unnatural environment in which we envelop ourselves in these glorified lifestyles that slowly normalize the idea that they represent real life.

I think we’d all like to believe that we don’t experience insecurity related to the seemingly never-ending party happening on our phones; that this distorted view into celebrities’ and peers’ lives doesn’t make us feel like we’re missing out on something someone else appears to have. But while we waste away hours longing for these digitized lifestyles full of success, glamour, vacations, sex, partying, relationships, and friendships, we forget to remember how brief these bursts of perfection are compared to the monotony of the average human’s daily reality.

So why are our lives so deeply integrated with this culture that publicizes only our best features and accomplishments?

Maybe because the origin of its intention is really not so sinister. The ability to connect, to keep contact, to share pieces of yourself with the world—these are powerful and useful digital tools that keep humanity connected and informed. Unfortunately, the reality is that the influx of unrestrained time spent on our phones has carried much discontentment along with its benefits and increased our feeling of social isolation. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests that adults in the U.S. who use social media more than their peers experience higher levels of social isolation. Of the surveyed adults, those who reported spending more than two hours per day on social media had twice the odds of experiencing social isolation than their peers who only spent a half hour per day on social media.

Between an underlying addiction to cell phones and social platforms that are proving to be anything but social, we have lost the value of face-to-face interaction and have, to some extent, replaced or supplemented this socialization with digital communication. This substitution offers an illusion of companionship between friends, peers, and family members without actually nurturing these relationships and can leave them in a state of ingenuity. This behavior creates room for loneliness that develops when the value of physical relationships is compared to their digital presence in our lives.

If we can avoid the use of social platforms as a means of quelling an insatiable, existential boredom or a search for personal fulfillment, we will ease the burden of a lot of unnecessary negative emotion about our own lives and lessen comparison between ourselves and others. We will likely find ourselves more present within our own reality and relationships, which is something that must be treasured to a higher degree than menial, temporary online connections. Only you control the content you choose to consume on a daily basis. Why not build that into an outlet that uplifts, educates, and inspires without taking from and skewing the reality you exist in?

There may not be an escape route in sight for the deep integration of humankind and the internet. So in the meantime, we must find a way to enjoy this connection in careful moderation. Because through conscientious interaction, uplifting intentions, and the disposal of unnecessary divisiveness, there is opportunity to share positivity and there is potential for beneficial and healthy interaction online.