New York Fashion Week just ended — and it might have been the weirdest one yet thanks to social media. Of course social media has been a great way to get the masses fired up about fashion, give talented people who don't work at magazines a voice in the industry, and allow brands to market themselves in cool and interesting ways. But has it all become too much? Thanks to Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram and Pinterest (and probably some others I'm forgetting), the week was a mess of self-promotion, bad street style, and slightly shady endorsements — more so than ever before. Here's why it might be time to pull back from social media just a bit.
1. Social media has made it impossible to just sit there and enjoy a fashion show.
Everyone is seized with the desire to tweet everything going on as it happens. So instead of watching the clothes come down the runway, people in the audience spend the whole show staring at their phones. I can't remember the last time I went to a show and didn't worry about tweeting boring things about what was going on. Like, "Opening look at Betsey Johnson!!!" or whatever show it is. Meanwhile, everyone else is tweeting the exact same thing and I think a lot of us are doing it 1. so that we can announce to the world that we're there and have a good enough seat to get the photos of the outfits and 2. for shameless RTs from people who get really excited by fashion shows and lead us to more followers.
But to the second point: I think tweeting clothes on the runway will slow eventually, because the race to post fashion show slideshows online before anyone else has gotten so intense that hugely stressed-out interns are regularly sent into the night to get a USB drive from a photographer, so it hardly takes any time for the images to hit the Internet anyway. Also, Style.com and NowFashion.com posted live from shows as they happened and they weren't crappy TwitPics or Instagrams! So really, we can all probably stop worrying about tweeting looks with no jokes or insight for shameless RTs, and go back to looking at the clothes IRL and thinking of things to say that are interesting/funny.
2. It robs us of true insight.
With all the pressure to get information up first, the focus is on speed rather than adding value to the conversation. All we want to do — and I'm guilty of this! — is get up that photo of Kim Kardashian arriving on Kanye West's arm out on Twitter before anyone else so that we can get RTs and faves and followers. How wonderful would it be if we all realized we were all tweeting the same nonsense, and spent a little bit more time to put a real sentence or thought or joke in our feeds or Tumblrs or Facebook pages?
3. It's created a suffocating pressure to become the next Susie Bubble.
Look, I get it, we all want to be Susie Bubble, who is like a Fashion Week celebrity at this point, with tons of blog and Twitter followers to show for it. She wears the weirdest shit and looks awesome in it without even spending that much time on her hair or makeup (it looks that way, anyway). She's effortlessly fashionable and telegenic — and okay, fine, let's all be jealous of that! But we don't all need to be personal style bloggers like her. We also don't all need to be street style blog stars either. Yet it seems like a lot of people milling about Fashion Week believe that they DO need to be these things, and so they end up doing their best Susie Bubble impressions by throwing on everything festering in the kitchen sink that is their closets, whipping out their belly buttons, and strutting in front of the street style photographers hoping to get fawned over in Internet Land. The problem with this is that it's led to real confusion about what "style" in street style really means. I used to view those blogs as an authority about trends and how to wear things but now I just feel like it's an endless parade of people playing dress up for the sole purpose of getting attention rather than just being who they are. As fascinating as this phenomenon has been to observe, it's really become a wart on the whole operation of Fashion Week. The attention is supposed to be mostly about decoding the crazy nonsense on the runway, not gawking at the crazy nonsense swanning shamelessly around the fountain outside the runway!
4. It's polluted street style.
People who do have a following now have sponsors — clothing brands, liquor companies, etc. — who bank on them getting photographed and fawned over. So they pay them — sometimes thousands of dollars — to wear or write about their stuff. This doesn't bother me as much as how we don't always know when these people are wearing things just because they're getting paid to wear them. Also, this practice heightens the pressure for these folks to get photographed through whatever means they can. It also leads to obviously sponsored tweets like: "Just relaxing with a bag of Trader Joe's sugar-free caramel-flavored sunflower seeds and my favorite ABSORPSTRESS Maxi Pad." That's a made-up but but not a totally unrealistic example of where all this branding could lead.
I wish we had a better system in place for handling sponsored stuff. I wish sponsored blog posts and clothes and Tweets were more clearly delineated so people aren't confused about whether they're looking at an ad or honest endorsement. I think if they were, people would feel less uneasy about these blog and Twitter stars doing paid endorsements that the industry has been debating endlessly for the past couple of years.
5. Because some of the social media-fueled endorsement deals are just bizarre.
Google was super smart to sponsor the Diane Von Furstenberg show. The appearance of Google glasses on the runway had everyone scratching their heads enough to do posts on it for various news organizations. The video of what DVF saw from her Google glasses, we were told the day of the show, would end up on Google+ — that other social network. Would DVF have ever wanted these things in her show without the viral marketing opportunity for both her brand and Google? It was funny for all of us to cover but still, just weird. Not to mention a big reminder of Google+'s need of cool factor.
6. It's made Fashion Week a cesspool of bragging rights.
When I was at the Jenny Packham show, the girl next to me couldn't enjoy being at the show (of a Kate Middleton designer!) because she was so focused on getting a snap of Brad Goreski sitting on the front row with Minka Kelly. I guess this is what she wanted to tweet or post on her Facebook page to show she was at Fashion Week and that it was glamorous because they were sitting 20 yards away from her. But really, does anyone care about the celeb pics their friends put on Facebook? Unless you're wearing a fur bikini and holding Snooki's baby or personally ripping Taylor Momsen's pantyhose, probably not? So live in the moment instead of from behind your iPhone and just tell people about it later. Given the speed at which things move these days, you might not even care that much about it in five hours.