How we present ourselves on social media is up to us, how we look and are presented can all be changed with a simple filter. Acne, extra weight, hair color, eye color all can be changed, everyone can be flawless. Keene State College senior and Art Major Haley Kean questions the impacts social media has on our lives in her new three part mural.
Since she was young, Kean knew she wanted to be an artist. There was a special bond that she could not break between her and art. As she grew older, Kean realized there was a lot she could say through her talent. Now a senior at Keene State College, Kean has been working on activist art.
“I Post Therefore I Am” is Kean’s latest street mural, displayed outside of the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College. The three part installation sets out to explain social media impacts. Kean said. “It’s about the voyeuristic qualities of social media and how it allows you to know more about people than you would have ever known, especially strangers. If you think about it, [people] that you follow on Instagram you may have talked to once or maybe never. I thought that was a really interesting concept and I started from there.”
Kean said she got the idea for this project from viewing the puzzling world of social media, and was impacted by the embedded beauty standards and objectification of women. Instagram baddies and Tumblr models both come with standards that constrict society’s standards of beauty from growing.
Each mural depicts something different, but all express how addicting it can be to get our followers’ likes. The first mural of the series is a figure whose face is represented with an emoji in front of a completely black background. It shows how isolating it can be, looking for that perfect picture to post and hoping it get a high number of likes, displaying the need for validation. Painting number two, or as Kean refers to it, the triptych mural, is a figure on their phone surrounded by happy face emoji. Kean said, “[It]represents how you can be overwhelmed by social media and how you can be basically claustrophobic. Being on social media can make people feel like you need to have the approval of all these people and you need to take that one picture one thousand times even though they all look the same.” The final piece was inspired by the famous artist Pablo Picasso. Squating in public, the figure is all alone with passing shadows of people around it. The figure in each piece is meant to be ambiguous so that all viewers can connect with it in some way.
KSC sophomore and Film Production Major Jessica Moir said, “I feel like the smiley faces are what the world wants her to be, but she’s more serious. It is as if the smiley faces are forced.”
Starting as a personal project, Kean eventually applied for a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) grant to bring her passion to life. Kean said, “I applied for the SURF grant and I got the opportunity to make large scale work, which is something I would never have been able to do without that SURF grant. I was able to fulfill my wildest dreams as an artist and use really large scale prints.”
Redfern Arts Center Director Shannon Mayers said, “I like [the murals,] and I’m glad they are out there and that student artists are able to do this.”
Kean said her goal is not to make others think self expression through social media is bad, but rather that she wants to change the pressure concerning how a person looks.
Adriana Daniel can be contacted at