This week, the internet seems to be abuzz with the news that someone was quitting social media. Popular YouTuber and “body goals” Instagram user, Essena O’neill, is taking a break from Instagram. Rather than feeling body positive about herself, social media was making her feel worst.
On her new site Let’s Be Game Changers she shares how “doing it for the gram,” made her self conscious. She has started changing the captions on her Instagram photos to reflect how she was really feeling. Her new captions show how that photo ended up on her account to begin with. Essena shares the dark side of fashion, fitness blogging and lifestyle microblogging.
For example, that slinky t-shirt dress your favorite Instagrammer was wearing from FeeFiFoFum Boutique was paid $1000 to push a cheaply-made generic item.
Social Media is giving us FOMO
What I want to focus on, is how her online image became her obsession. She only felt pretty after getting the perfect shot among 2,000 of almost identical candids. I am sure all of us at some point have experienced this. The need to present our lives as the best possible self is tantalizing. The “likes” start to become currency to you.
This strange need to be the “center of attention” (as older generations like to see it as) can lead to all sorts of skewed perceptions of yourself. You are constantly exposed to the best versions of other people’s well pieced together lives. You only see their face when they feel prettiest, when their eyebrows are #OnFleek, when they can max out the PR on the squat rack, or traveling in Bali, this is enough to make any person envious. Several publications have gone so far to say that social media causes anorexia.
Body positivity in traditional media
You would think, then, as a fat girl, who is of mixed race, not from a wealthy family and about as financially stable as a 16 year-old working to pay off their first junker of a car; I would be a prime candidate for FOMO (fear of missing out) and potential eating disorders. But, no. Since becoming more active on social media it has made me feel more body positive.
As a teenager, I spent every Friday night reading magazines with air brushed women graced the front. The articles inside the magazines went from “love your body” to “lose 15 lbs in a week” to “the best pizza recipe ever,” in 20 pages. After I was done I would flip on the television to watch TLC’s What not to Wear only to see the svelte Stacy London and Clinton Kelly spend an hour teaching women how to hide their problem areas.
If I was feeling fun, I would watch Room Raiders on MTV where obviously the men and women were trying to make it into Hollywood and were picked because they weren’t too aggressive on the eyes. This led me to yo-yo dieting and the feeling of worthlessness in comparison to the images around me. I am not blaming the media for my weight, or my lack of self worth, but it did not give me a realistic view of beauty.
How social media made me more body positive
Social media allows me to pick and choose who is on the cover of my magazine. On Instagram, I can follow body positive bloggers that are not focussed on dressing for your body type. On Twitter, I can hear conversations around health, wellness, fitness, and body positivity. The people talking about body positivity are from all sizes, and not just the MD from Cheese and Crackers University. On Facebook, I can follow online publications that spotlight women size 2, size 14 and even size 22.
I can see sizes that traditional media would only cover as a controversial piece or as a one-pager on plus size fashion. Social media gave me the ability to select who my idols were. Social media allowed me to hear messages that had been faux pas in the past. Social media showed me images of women pushing boundaries.
I am thankful that the industry I choose to partake in is also a social movement. Unlike O’neill, that felt like she was being materialistic and fake, I am so happy I to represent marginalized women. Every time I feel like I am writing for nobody, I get an email that reminds me why it’s important that plus size bloggers like Gabi Gregg, Nicolette Mason, and Allison Teng put themselves out there.
Before you finish that sentence about how social media is ruining a generation, ask yourself “how is it being used?”
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