Dissecting The Placebo Effect Of New Year, New Me

I’ve seen a lot of quality internet content surrounding the new year: from the lengthy captions on political and social activism and the less altruistic but still impactful personal pacts to improve oneself (inside and out) to the downright hilarious memes that are just #vibes—there is something for everyone.


I admit it’s pretty cool to see a mass commitment to being and doing better, inspirational even. And there is power in numbers. The ability that social media offers us to measure trends and sum up self-improvement with a simple selfie and caption is immensely impressive. At the same token, it fosters this competitive peer pressure that is so omnipresent come January 1. Despite the growing statistics that 80% of New Years Resolutions are left by the wayside only 30 days later, it feels as if not having a resolution automatically categorizes you as a smug narcissist. I usually skip the resolutions. It’s not that I think I’m perfect nor do I have the tendency to leave things unfinished, but the significance of January 1 is just lost on me. But even non-believers are not immune, and the mass collection of ‘New Year, New Me’ posts kinda kicked my existential ass this year.


At 11:30 PM on New Year’s Eve, I fell asleep on my couch cradling my dog, with no intentions for the next day but to take a walk through Prospect Park. All was well. Fast forward four days later and I’ve somehow found myself following The Annual Goop Detox, wearing an outfit that is indubitably feminine and pledging to my friend that we will finesse excitement and motivation with anticipation-worthy plans all year long. Hell, we even did an office-wide round of clean protein drink shots this afternoon. This isn’t me; I’m a jeans and t-shirt, Chinatown lunch special, perfectly happy with weekends spent on my couch kinda girl. So, what gives?


A lot of the psychology boils down to the aforementioned peer pressure—the looming feeling that if everyone around me is pledging for something greater than themselves, then I should too. One of social media’s greatest pitfalls is the side-effect of exemplification. It allows us to create an aspirational version of ourselves, one rife for comparison all 640 pixels of Facetuned, enhanced, and carefully curated self. It’s a highly polarizing quality, at once isolating, yet super connective with the ability for one to become one in a thousand with a quick hashtag or geo-location. But not all comparison is cutthroat competition. In fact, some can be inspirational, lending courage to those in need when faced with a question of do I or don’t I.


Taking the opportunity to feel included is a glass half-full mentality. And for one time in my life, I took the bait, was lifted up, dare I say empowered by the overwhelming number of posts that encouraged self-betterment. The placebo effect doesn’t always have a negative connotation, and you don’t have to be alone to be individual—that’s the biggest lesson I learned here. So, while my old Levi’s sit in the dusty part of my closet and New Wing Wah won’t be seeing my business for at least another week, it does feel pretty good to be a part of something, even if it’s just a state of mind. New year, new me, amiright?



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