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Performative Behavior

By: Emma Tolliver

Life isn’t a movie. Why are we expected to act like it is? 

There’s a culture, amplified by social media and the growing relevance of influencers, that creates an arena for performative behavior. Performative behavior, as defined by, is “an action taken specifically with an audience in mind, to elicit a response or reaction”. In other words, it’s living to be seen. Doing things to be caught doing them. 

Performative behavior isn’t necessarily bad. The jobs of influencers and other prominent celebrities rely on performative behavior. However, the culture it creates is, at best, unfortunate. At worst, it’s toxic. 

Performative behavior encourages a positive feedback loop of self-consciousness. The target audience for most of these influencers are young girls. There’s a concept being sold: that your life has to be pretty enough to be recorded, has to be entertaining enough for an audience, has to emulate people who do this for a living. Girls see this and are expected to imitate it. And that is detrimental to their livelihood. 

It shifts focus from enjoyment to what other people’s perception might be. It makes girls become spectators in their own lives. There’s a worry about one’s image that wasn’t there before, forming a barrier from living in the moment. 

The problem isn’t technically performative behavior. The problem is the culture that surrounds it. 

It’s hard to not buy into it. As an ever-present force, it’s all around you everywhere. When other people appear to have picturesque lives, it’s difficult to remember that the picture they paint is only a glimpse into their lives. It’s difficult to see that and wonder why your life isn’t like that all the time. To see that and not wish that your life was like that. 

It’s performative. What’s it all worth? 

I know girls who feel like they’re cheap imitations in the culture of performative behavior. They spend hours going places and taking pictures and editing their photos. It doesn’t seem to make them any happier. 

To girls who feel trapped in this positive feedback loop, who feel as though they have to attain this unattainable, perfect existence: please enjoy your life. Please do what you love and what you enjoy and do not worry about who sees you doing what. It is your life to live. Not a movie, not a post, not consumable entertainment for others. Live your life.