The general verdict about social media is that it can be harmful to us through showing us unrealistic representations of life. These representations can have any number of internal effects on the user, such as giving them an unwarranted fear that they are somehow missing out if they are not included in the happy hour photos their friends post.
Many people also attach their worth to the number of likes, clicks, views, and shares their social media content receives, meaning if they don’t receive a benchmark number of engagements, they are somehow irrelevant.
Let us also not forget the illusion many “models” on Instagram sell (side note: I mean no offense by putting that in quotation marks, but I worked in LA in the entertainment industry for three years, so I subscribe to the old school definition of model). The women who receive lots of attention on the Gram usually portray a standard of beauty that is unattainable, or just plain unreal. Kudos to them on their hustle, but let’s call it what it is.
Anyway, many social media analysts are cautioning that women should stay off of Instagram altogether, and I have seen a few dark-skinned female personalities on YouTube advocate for other dark-skinned black women to get off of Instagram to protect their psyches. I see their intentions and do not wish to shut them down, but I also believe there is a way to consume of social media that supports positive habits and mental healing.
Black women in particular love Instagram. This makes sense since most black women are seeking images that remind them of themselves and their likeness that they cannot obtain from mainstream media. Since it’s an image-based platform, a black woman can easily seek out images involving the looks, hair, makeup, and lifestyle choices she is interested in. This is where I want to throw a symbolic red flag to stop the game and call attention to the concept of interest. I think this might be where some women are going wrong. It was where I went wrong for years.
Only after my two-year exile on social media (yes, it coincided with those two years I spent not wearing makeup) was I able to truly zero in on the choices I was making before returning to social media with a different attitude. What you choose to follow will also follow you around, in a sense. So, if you follow accounts that offer nothing but violent videos, disparaging memes, and the opinions of people who really aren’t qualified to give them, your outlook on Instagram might be pretty grim. You are what you surround yourself with.
However, I want to also point out that in the same way there are segments of degrading content on the site, I have also found just as many, if not more, accounts that offer positivity and uplifting content on a regular basis. Those are most of what fills my feed when I log in. I find that seeing images of other black women doing yoga, cooking healthy meals for their families, gardening and sharing tips, and offering hair care advice freely helps me to feel a positive sense of connection to the community of black women all around me. I like this feeling.
So, while the experts argue that we need to trash Instagram in favor or more positive mental health, I say we have more options than just that. Tailor your feed, on any site, to supporting you. Anything that makes you feel inadequate or that you must change because you aren’t good enough (not the same as inspiration, that lets us know we can be good enough) should be unfollowed, muted, blocked, deleted. Happy Gramming.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.