I find it almost astonishing that Merriam-Webster includes ‘Thirst Trap’ as a ‘phrase of interest’ on their Words We’re Watching forum. This forum is basically dedicated to words/phrases Merriam-Webster is increasingly seeing in use but they can’t possibly justify adding to the dictionary. Mind blown that this concept has gained so much mainstream usage that it is even being considered a word of interest. But, welcome to the 21st century, where the old white guy sitting next to me can fist-bump, raise-the-roof, and casually toss phrases like trippin’, THOT, and ‘my bad’ into daily conversation without even batting an eyelash.
Several years ago, I was scrolling through IG and stumbled upon a friend suggestion that I immediately recognized. It was the pre-teen daughter of a close friend. I immediately was appalled that this young, very impressionable girl had an IG account. I called their mother (who did not really use social media), warning her of the perils of IG. But everything I had to say fell on deaf ears. This woman envisioned herself as a progressive, modern mother. All the kids were doing it and she wasn’t going to deny her. The more she denied her, the more likely she would be to rebel and sneak behind her back.
I immediately wanted to prepare this little girl a carepackage of condoms, tissues, a box of truffles, and a book about self-love. Because I knew how this was going to go… But I shut my mouth and minded my damn business. Over the next 6 months, I progressively watched this little girls posts go from young, jovial and innocent, to increasingly provacative. A little shoulder here, a little thigh there, and boom! The last photo with her bent over sent me spiraling out of control.
I hopped in her DM to have a chat. And I was deeply saddened by her responses. Her answers vacillated between ‘its not a big deal’, ‘lots of people do it’, to ‘I get more likes’. Ulimately, this girl used these photos to compete amongst her peers for attention. She felt as if she had to put up ‘better’ pictures than other girls she knew in order to get noticed. And that is my biggest fear about how Thirst Traps are shaping the self-images of young women.
To Trap or Not To Trap?
Sure, thirst traps can be ’empowering’. It offers women an opportunity to showcase themselves and project themselves in a light they find flattering. You work out 6 days a week? Then damnit, you should be able to show off your hard work. Agreed. You had 7 kids and still somehow have a a 6-pack and perky breasts? I need to see that is possible
I don’t thirst trap because I’m honestly not comfortable with my body. While I’m typically well dressed, the inner struggle I face on a daily basis is real. On the outside everyone thinks I’m super polished and secure. But no one realizes exactly how many outfits I try on in a given morning before I feel comfortable and confident to go out the house. Some weeks are better than others, especially if I have been super diligent about my eating and going to the gym. And the rest of the days are struggle city.
I think I have bought clothing from 90% of the poppin IG boutiques. But, I am constantly disappointed that the Fashion Nova ‘fit I ordered does not at all look like it did on the model. Enter my spiral of depression…
How Social Media is Changing the World
All that being said… I never want my daughter to go through this. I want my daughter to have a super positive body image. I want her to feel good about who she is despite how she looks day to day. But my fear is that the world of social media (not just thirst traps) is setting the confidence bar beyond reach. I wouldn’t wish the self-image issues I face on anyone and that is the last thing I want my daughter to go through. But I also don’t want my daughter’s self-esteem linked to likes, comments, or DMs. I don’t want her planning her life around the next ‘epic’ pic she has to take for social media. I don’t want her missing moments because she is constantly checking social media to see if the boy she likes looked at her story or liked her pic.
No matter what age you are, social media imagery can make you question your success in life. Think you are doing pretty good? All it takes is one video or image to ruin your whole day. People share all their successes. Perfect marriages, perfect homes, perfect bodies. And it makes you even more aware of your less than perfect life. It takes a super secure, mature, and grounded person not to compare themselves to the things they see on social media. And the thirst trap is a reminder to women that we are surrounded by ‘perfection’ that has specifically eluded us.
Ultimately, it is up to us as women to learn to love ourselves. It takes maturity to applaud others and not feel less-than. Social media can be used as a vehicle for self-doubt, but it ultimately up to us to address the insecurities and brokenness within. It is up to us to love ourselves first so that we can lead by example.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”