With spring here and summer around the corner, it’s only a matter of time for the bikini selfies and travel pics to start flowing in, and the FOMO to commence. You might ask yourself, what’s the good in social media if all it has to offer are enviable photos and ruthless trolls? Well, when used the right way, social media can actually lift your mood. When it comes to social media, we tend to prioritize our output: what photos we post, what captions we make/steal, how often we delight our beloved followers. However, the key to benefitting from social media isn’t through what you’re putting out there: it’s through what you’re taking in.
If you want social media to improve your self-esteem, you’ve got to look at who you’re following. Getting likes is only one side of the story. You may get a lot of likes on your photos, but when you look at your feed, you feel like everyone else’s photos look better. Social media shouldn’t be this endless struggle for approval. Part of your feed should feel like an escape from counting likes. Looking at staged photos can takes its toll on your self esteem, so look at something you can’t compare your selfies to – like a juicy burger or a killer artwork. Follow pages like food blogs or artists’ accounts. These kinds of pages can also help you in your personal life. Food bloggers introduce you to the latest restaurant trends before large BuzzFeed followings make your dining dreams impossible. Accounts like @foodbabyny, @eastcoastfeastcoast, and @devourpower are just some accounts that have made my summers full of great eats. Plus, art pages like @pollynor and @lucialitman are feminist gems.
Meme or repost pages are also a good getaway from stressing over likes, but be aware of what they’re posting. We all know those whitewashed “relatable posts” pages where the only caption used is “#goals” and the only “goals” are achieved by skinny, tan white girls with impossible thigh gaps. If a page only seems to be uplifting one kind of woman, it’s probably not going to uplift you, so try to find a page that knows that the world consists of more than just one kind of person.
Once you’ve got your entertainment, it’s time to address the people you’re following. You don’t need to delete all of your friends because they allegedly take better photos than you, but you do need to analyze the celebrities, bloggers, and any other Insta-famous people you’re following. Beauty standards aren’t just something created by society – they’re created by you, too. If you follow a bunch of people who don’t look like you, you’re obviously going to set unreasonable beauty expectations for yourself. Recently, I decided to follow any Victoria’s Secret model of color with an Instagram account. Though I have no regrets following other models like Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne, following models of color has been very beneficial. There’s a huge difference between seeing a pretty photo and seeing a pretty photo with a look you can actually attain. Instead of thinking, “I wish I could be this beautiful,” you start to think, “I need to try this look sometime!” You should always give yourself the opportunity to feel that way.
Finding people that represent you is easier than it looks. There’s a whole world out there of bloggers and creative using social media to express their art through style and simultaneously expose underrepresented minorities. These kinds of pages are also pretty helpful if you’re a student or just starting out in your career. A big reason why I enjoy social media is because it allows me to connect with young bloggers and see how they use social media to build their brand, and in turn, their careers. Social media has the possibility to inspire you to do more than lose weight. It can inspire you to take your interests more seriously, as bloggers like Samantha Maria (@samanthamariaofficial) and Jess from @masonandmiles have done for me.
Social media doesn’t have to be this place of self-hatred, bashing, and catfishing. It can be a motivator if we allow it to be. Move over spring cleaning; it’s time for a social media cleanse.