Arn't I A Woman?: All That Glitters: The Dark Side of Lisa Frank and The Masks We Wear on Social Media



Sep 7, 2015

All That Glitters: The Dark Side of Lisa Frank and The Masks We Wear on Social Media

“Gold in its raw form appears dull and does not glitter.”

Like most girls my age, I grew up on Lisa Frank; to this day I have never loved a boy as much as I loved my original Lisa Frank trapper keeper.  And as a feminist I deliciously delight in non-ironically reappropriating the pink colorful glitter images Frank iconized as celebratory and powerful rather than weak and flippant.  So while groggily sitting on my parent’s back deck this morning where I have been living for the past 6 months due to some of those wonderful life-likes-to-kick-you-in-the-ass-unforeseen-circumstances, I’m half enjoying my day off thanks to the long holiday weekend and half suffering through pangs of loneliness, deeply isolated from the glitzy city lights of Atlanta 30 miles away. As I scroll through my friends’ posts and pictures of their frolicking late night adventures around Dragon Con this weekend, adorned in pink wigs, high heels, outrageous costumes, and ridiculously (yet genuinely) large grins, I stumbled upon a post on tumblr that seemed to perfectly encapsulate my current inner turmoil I am grappling with in terms of social media, isolation, and the falsehood represented by the images we post. It was a Jezebel article titled: "Inside the Rainbow Gulag: The Technicolor Rise and Fall of Lisa Drank" which exposed the company's history of darkness that had been slowly suffocating the brand's bright aesthetic image for years.  
Jezebel article
 In our unprecedented age of immediate interaction and instant gratification from our social media accounts where we can choose which colorful images and posed festive smiles to broadcast to friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, enemies, that dude you met once at the bar….we can highlight our own rainbow-teddy bear-unicorn moments, while hiding the other painful realities that these same images might-at least, subconsciously- be trying to cover up. I think it makes sense in many ways to want to share our good happy moments; the perfectly angled pictures, the celebrations of our own lives; the bleakness of this world is so well documented elsewhere, and it can even feel empowering to gain some semblance of control of how other people see us.
There is plenty of research, however, that states that social media often makes us feel disconnected and lonely from our peers, even as we are guilty of posting the same pictures that perhaps make others feel just as lonely. Our brains literally neurologically light up when we see notifications from our social media accounts, which can be murky territory for those who understand brain chemistry and mental disorders. Here I will only speak from my perspective because I can’t assume anyone has the same inferiority masked by a superiority Faustian complex that I have. People that already suffer from depression and anxiety are doubly at risk when perusing social media for comparing ourselves to others or interpreting things through a negative lens, like un-replied messages or lack of likes on posts. (Ok so for some freaky synchronistic shit Drake’s song ‘Star 67’ just came on and one of the first lines is: “I aint reply, let her know that I read it though.”)
Admittedly, the geographical separation from my friends has greatly amplified my sensitivity to unresponsiveness on social media. Recently it has been affecting me more than normal. For example, I went on a few dates with an old friend from high school. For whatever reason he has chosen to solely contact me through Facebook messaging, which is already pretty impersonal. It ended up making sense for us to just be friends instead of pursuing anything serious, but he knew what a hard time I was having and promised he would be there for me as a friend. Yet the messages got less frequent and the response time grew larger and longer since we last saw each other in person.  He was literally the only friend I had close to me in this town, so it has been painfully excruciating to log on to Facebook and realize you are being ignored.
Another ex-boyfriend came in to town recently, and I really wanted to reconnect- not in a physical way- but in a beautiful way to prove to myself my growth and strength; that five years later the pain I had went through with our breakup had been healed and I truly could be around him, hanging out with him as two adult friends reminiscing. Especially as I still endure remnants of pain from my most recent breakup, I think I needed it to prove that soon this could be the case with my current ex. I would have nothing but feelings of neutrality towards him; I would neither hate nor love him. This long lost ex texted me late one evening but I was in for the night, and when I tried to connect the next day he was gone, but for some reason I was supremely bothered that he didn’t respond back to me.
In both situations, I have no idea what is going on; the friend has an intense new job and his mother just had surgery, and the ex lives abroad and the phone he texted me from maybe wasn’t even his. Maybe none of it has to do with me, no one is trying to ignore me, and I am reading into everything, or maybe they just don’t care. The trouble with a wandering mind emerging from the cocoon of a depressive episode mixed with modern day technology is that we never really know if we are being ignored or making things up.
Similarly, we never know if someone is actually happy when they post a grinning picture of themselves celebrating on Instagram; it is all up to our interpretation. Perhaps deep loneliness makes you want to produce images that prove you are happy; as if this documentation somehow cancels out the feelings of sadness. I used to post innumerable pictures of my ex and I; I was so proud to be in a relationship and be in love and I wanted to show it to the world. But I think there was something deeper there; as someone who has always felt insecure as a long-term single lady, I craved validation from the rest of the world. I needed them to know: look, someone loves me! I am not unlovable! I needed myself to know that.
After we broke up, I ran into a friend whose words still haunt me. I was telling her of the life we lived behind the smiling pictures: the fights, his controlling ways, and my growing unhappiness both in my life and in the relationship. “But the pictures of you two were always so cute!!!” For some reason, as soon as those words left her lips a dagger was thrust through my heart and continues to twist a little deeper each time they reverberate through my mind. It didn’t seem to matter to her what I had just said about the relationship; the pictures proved otherwise. We looked happy so we must have been happy. I wished I hadn’t wished for so much external validation because the problem with constantly posting all that glitters in our lives is that people then don’t understand the darkness that can lurk behind that life. Yes, we were cute together. But we aren’t together anymore, and trust me, it feels horrible to be going through a beak up and have someone remind you of how cute you and your ex were. 

"Lisa Frank's fall from grace- a story of scandal, greed, and abuse-is in stark contrast to its shiny, happy aesthetic." The Frank article details how she is rarely photographed because of her intense body image issues. Maybe there is something to be learned from Lisa Frank's story. Maybe the very need to show hot oink images of unicorns and rainbows emerges from a place of darkness; that place we all have that feels colorless, empty, and dead. In a very FRANK interview (I HAD TO), Lisa states "At first I didn't want to do unicorns. The artist in me said no. Then I thought wait a minute this is commercial art. Let's do what's going to sell."
Maybe social media is just the commercial side of our lives, and our other dark stories are better left for real life interactions. Maybe it's time for me to just not take social media so seriously, because you just can't and won't ever be able to recreate or understand the complexities of human dynamics through a screen. While researching the phenomenon of depression and social media, I read an article about a guy who once suffered a panic attack after certain Facebook interactions and was relegated t his bed for three days after. I say this not just to make my self feel a little better that I am affected by Facebook and Instagram an Twitter and all the million social media interactions we can have but also to validate that in this day and age it can be a very real issue for people to struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation in an age where more and more of our interactions are online.

"Christmas in Neptune is, was and always will be, about the trappings: the lights and the tinsel they use to cover up the sordidness, the corruption. No, Veronica, there is no Santa Claus."

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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio