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It was a photo of myself I'd never seen before with the words "Oh, New York..." scrawled across the bottom. And it had been taken just that day.
My childhood bestie who lives in the South had sent it to me, accompanied by a string of texts I could barely believe. In the weirdest web-to-real-life scenario I'd ever been a part of, a stranger had Snapchatted her disgust at my outfit. And even worse, it had gotten back to me.
Was I pissed? Well, I'm not going to pretend like I tossed my hair over my shoulder and strutted into the zen palace before me with my head held high. I wish I could say I found this sequin-shading trite, but instead, I stumbled into the studio sweating and beet-red with fury. Someone was making fun of me—to my best friend!—and she needed to be set straight.
Of course, while my mind was pondering exactly where my BFF's sorority sister could shove her opinion, my body was stuck in 75 minutes of self-exploration and meditation. As I went from seething rage to savasana, I was able to appreciate the insanity of the situation. After class, I owned the incident by posting it on my own profile for the amusement of all my friends. (After all, it's better to be laughed with than laughed at.)
Someone was making fun of me—to my best friend!—and she needed to be set straight.
So, you can only imagine how much more shocked I was to find out that I wasn't the first person this had happened to—and definitely wouldn't be the last.
Zoe Schlacter is an artist from head to toe. You can see her colorful point of view in her vibrant outfits, her statement makeup, and her eponymous line of floral accessories. But even with her praiseworthy personal style, she still got Snap-shamed through the grapevine of her social circle.
"A stranger Snapchatted a picture of me sitting in the Baltimore airport, and sent it to someone at my school, who then screen-shotted the picture and texted it to my friend," recalled Zoe. "She was reluctant to show me, in protection of my feelings. But I'm glad she did."
Zoe's eye-popping color schemes and anything-but-basic outfits prove she's a fashion pioneer, but that come with a price. "I've dressed in this way for a while; I've been someone with a 'different style' for about 6 years, so it's not the first time I've heard negative feedback about my appearance. I have developed thick skin over time," she said.
I'll admit when I first saw that Snapchat of myself, it was difficult not to critique it through the sender's eyes. Did I look crazy? Was I really that pale? What does "Oh, New York..." even mean? I was annoyed and a bit let down until I remembered how unusually confident I felt getting dressed that day. I had on my favorite sweatshirt, a dress that I had purchased with cold hard cash from my blog's first (albeit tiny) advertising buy, and a purse that I was, until now, convinced made me look way cooler than I really am.
When I first saw that Snapchat of myself, it was difficult not to critique it through the sender's eyes.
But confidence is a funny beast. It's one thing to step outside your door in an outfit that exemplifies your truest self, but it's something else entirely to know people are talking behind your back, and simply choose not to care.
When I weighed both of these viewpoints against each other, though, which was I going to have be my truth: a tourist's negative take on my supposedly wacky outfit? Or my pride in earning myself the most fabulous vintage harlequin-print dress I've ever seen?
Right then, I decided that I would never value someone else's opinion over my own confidence again.
Personal style should be exactly that—personal. I wouldn't let my mom, a crotchety old person, or even a significant other dictate what I wear, so why should I care what a stranger thinks, even if gets back to me? It was a refresher course in dressing for myself and no one else, no matter what. Which means that, in the end, this weird Snapchat situation had given me a better gift than I ever could have realized that afternoon while fuming in downward dog.
Zoe feels similarly. "My existence is not a joke; I am very real. I've worked for years to develop a personal aesthetic and style. My personal expression through clothing choice is not some silly thing I do for attention. It's my art form. It's what I do and what I love."
Even better, thanks to that snap, she was able to confirm and respond to the haters. "I think posting the screenshot online was the best form of confrontation. This type of thing happens to me all the time. When this individual was taking my picture, I could feel it happening; I knew they were taking a picture of me. It was awesome to have proof of it! I saw it as a perfect opportunity to make a statement I had wanted to make for a long time."
"My existence is not a joke; I am very real.
Catching a garment gossipmonger red-handed has changed not only my viewpoint on fashion, but how I use technology. Since being Snap-shamed, I've noticed how many needless complaints I plunk into my phone about the people around me. The NYU student who took an inordinate amount of time at the pharmacy. The moms discussing private school admission. The fashion blogger whose overdramatic updates are just begging to be subtweeted. Now, my eyes are open to how much of our online tweeting and sharing is simply digital shit-talking.
I'm not suggesting that we all commit to a friendship pact and miraculously end cyber-snark—seriously, that girl's behavior at the CVS counter was inexcusable—but just because we have a tiny spy kit in our pocket that can record anything at absolutely any time doesn't mean we should always use it.
Though if I ever wind up going out with my BFF's college friends, you can be damn sure I already know what I'll be wearing.