Smoke & Mirrors

Alice Laycock

How interior design in social media can be used to help, not hinder.

As a generation, we are well acquainted with the detrimental effects that social media can have on our mental health. In a survey of 1,479 people aged 14-24 as part of a 2017 study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), participants were asked to rate five of the biggest social media platforms on their positive and negative effects upon their quality of life and mental health. It was concluded that Instagram was ranked worst in negative impact, and across all five, the most harmful effects included bullying, negative body image, and the fear of missing out. We are constantly inundated with idealistic faces, bodies, and lifestyles, which unfortunately we often subconsciously use to set unrealistic standards for ourselves. Here, illusion is detrimental and dangerous. 

However, the aforementioned study by the RSPH also considered the benefits of social media use. Participants reported that time spent on sites like Instagram helped them develop a stronger sense self-identity, provided a healthy means of self-expression, and increased their connection with both their peers, relatives, and the wider world. In addition, more and more users are becoming aware of the hazards of social media and are starting to create content to harness its power in a beneficial and positive way. The body positivity movement on Instagram, for example, now has 11.4 million posts tagged with #bodypositive and a further 3.8 million with #bodypositivity (as of December 2019), both of which contain a broad spectrum of users of all ethnicities, body types, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. This spectral array of users allows a wider group of people who consume internet content to feel represented and empowered, lessening the grip of the impossible standards set by the modified, photoshopped images which are, finally, dwindling in clout. In 2019, reality is slowly taking back control of the edited and the illusory. 

So, the illusion of ‘perfection’ on social media is proven to have dire consequences. Contrariwise, reality is broadening the spectrum to allow social media to become a positive tool for both personal and societal change. But in what genre can both ‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ images have equally affirmative effects? 

Interior design is not found anywhere in this day and age in quite the same abundance as on Instagram and Pinterest. On Instagram, #interiordesign has 81.8 million posts, #interior with 49.9 million, and #interiors with 19.5 million (as of December 2019). Pinterest is an equally popular source for interior design inspiration, with a huge proportion of users creating boards dedicated to it to use for anything from ideas for home improvements to concepts to use as case studies in the planning of full-scale commercial projects.  

Images of interiors found on these sites generally range from the “idealistic” to the “tastefully disorderly”. The former, for example, may be encapsulated in picture of a Haussmannian apartment in the centre of Paris with nothing inside its cavernous interior besides innate and elegant original features and choice pieces of designer furniture. The latter may be summed up in an image of a narrow galley kitchen in a 1930’s Berlin flat, complete with Monstera Deliciosa in a terracotta pot and stylishly provincial curtains replacing cupboard doors. 

If we take the Parisian apartment as an example, we can see that many people would deem that to be a living situation that only exists in an ideal world; due both to the cost of Parisian real estate and of a Barcelona Day Bed by Mies Van Der Rohe. Nevertheless, a pleasant genre of image to consume, possibly leading to self-education about modernist furniture or the remodelling of Paris by Haussmann (1853-1870). The Berlin flat, however, is a much more practically accessible millennial dream; somewhere very ordinary, down to earth, and achievable. An hour scouring charity shops for vintage crockery and a trip to a plant shop would send you well on your way to creating a fine mimicry of that charming setup. Herein we see that interiors in social media have the ability to spur us into wanting to attain a living environment which is idealistic while encouraging the romanticisation of what we already have (or could very feasibly create for ourselves in a few short hours on rainy Saturday without breaking the bank). 

But why does it matter? Well, while many see interior design as a frivolous, materialistic pursuit of socio-personal decoration (as, indeed, it can be) it is also an oft-neglected aspect of self-care. The phenomena of Environmental Psychology (the ways in which both the natural and built environments that we inhabit affect our mental and physical health) has been taken into account for the entirety of human history with practices such as Feng shui, also known as Chinese geomancy, being one of the earliest examples. Today, extensive attention is paid to our interior environment, and it is partly thanks to the internet that people are able to identify ways in which to improve their mental health through design via articles, blog posts, and social media. The utilisation of natural light, colour schemes, storage organisation, personal expression, and, recently, the popularity of houseplants have unearthed the fact that being an interior designer or having an extensive budget is not a prerequisite for developing a space which serves to aid your psychological wellbeing.  

Romanticise what you have now. It will better your wellbeing in the meantime as you endeavour to achieve your aims. Even then, while it would be a dream to wake up every morning swathed in Egyptian cotton sheets looking out over the Eiffel Tower, wandering bleary-eyed into a modest kitchen and watering your plants with an empty jam jar while you wait for the kettle to boil can be equally as satisfying.    

Words: Alice Laycock, Storehouse Content Team, @laycockinteriors

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