Social media made more body positive

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.

body positive magazine social media

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.

body positive magazine social media

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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11 comments

  1. Another young lady you might find interesting on you tube is Passion Jonesz. She is beautiful, very positive about her size and she has her own clothing line as well.

  2. Thanks for this post! It’s great to know what your views on the topic are. I’m still not sure about mine. I follow many fashion blogs and I do know that a lot of it is partly fake–expensive clothes, perfect bodies, always travelling. Who wouldn’t get a bit jealous from time to time? But we only get to see what they want us to see. I agree with you that we can choose. If I don’t like somebody, I can follow someone else. But I think lots of teenage girls don’t realise that and they start to value themselves based on some “perfect” bloggers or Instagram girls. Because the Internet is supposed to be authentic. Sadly, it’s not what it used to be anymore and we have to pick carefully what we follow. Have a good day! 🙂 X

    1. The beautify of the internet is that the information is always out there. You can find a study or article on any viewpoint really. It’s kind of like shopping at Forever21, there is so much to look at, to try on, and to buy, that you can forget that Zara is down the street better quality fabrics. I follow a plethora of body types from waif, to fitness, to plus; and what’s great is that you can get inspiration from all of them. There just needs to be an act of critical thinking going on. Just like with any advertisement, just because it says it’s the best coffee in New York City doesn’t mean it actually is.

  3. This was so insightful, especially the part about choosing who gets to be on the cover of your own magazine! I used to be so afraid of blogging because most of the bloggers that I knew and liked at the time didn’t really look like me. But once I started actually doing it, then I couldn’t say that I didn’t know a happy blogger who looked like me because I know of myself and I look like myself and I’m blogging. I think the biggest thing isn’t how social media makes us think poorly of ourselves, but that we tend to ‘other’ the people on social media who are happy but don’t look like the status quo. Like, if you don’t look the way people expect you to look then you aren’t just an ‘instagrammer’ or a ‘blogger’ or a ‘youtuber’. You kind of become whatever label you are given and I think breaking down that barrier can help solve a lot of problems.

  4. This is great – I hate when people talk about how the internet and technology are making our generation self-absorbed. What about the positives?? I am so glad that I have Instagram and Pinterest instead of Cosmo and MTV – because like you said, you can customize it and see who you want to see. Thanks for saying what I have been thinking the last few days after hearing the buzz about that model.

    1. Agreed Stephanie! As much as our generation may be “self absorbed” I feel like we are more mobilized and socially aware of the negativity put out there. Each selfie is kind of like an active punch to the face of the beauty industry saying “I don’t need your approval to feel pretty.”

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