Instagram is a lot of things. It’s a communicative medium to stay up to date on what is happening in the lives of your contacts as well as keep them up to date on what is happening in your life. It’s a place where fans and fandoms gather together, flocking around their ‘hero’. It’s a platform to promote all kinds of things like a business, an association, a specific product, self-created art, etc.. It’s a dark place where young people (especially girls) get taught how they should look by heavily photoshopped or surgically altered bodies or taught how to behave by international superstars or models that don’t really have anything to do with real/normal life anymore. But it is also a place to find community, to inform yourself of important topics in the world or to receive inspirational and self-confirming messages.
This last characterising aspect of Instagram is where I find myself more and more within the ‘Instagram spectrum’. Don’t get me wrong, my Instagram feed is still mostly filled with posts of celebrities I ‘like’ (generally actors whose played characters I like and have no clue of who the real person is), with the occasional photo of someone I actually know and like in real life popping up, but over the course of the last few years my instagram has become more informative, inspiring and activistic.
I’ve always been rather feministic and open about that and during my university career that has only grown and become more activistic. As my studies broadened my knowledge of the world and the feministic field, I started thinking more about what I actually wanted to see in the world. With this shift in my interests and expanded awareness, my instagram feed began to change as well. I started following accounts that did not just focus on ‘the best parts of life’, what Instagram is mostly famous for, but that actually stressed the need for action, explained popular, complex phenomena or concepts in clear-cut language, questioned the pervasive norms of society or showed the lesser parts of life in artistic ways. My feed became filled with calls to activism, explanatory posts of popular concepts, recommendations to inform yourself properly on something, individuals that went against the norms of society in terms of expression, behavior or ideals and art that questioned society.
The learning curve
My instagram is no longer just aimless entertainment, it actually teaches me things, makes me think critically about society and changes my own thoughts impactfully. In short, it raises awareness on so many different levels of my life that it actually positively impacts my thought processes. During the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, various instagram accounts encouraged me to properly inform myself about the history and the contexts surrounding the protests by giving recommendations of movies, books, podcasts and sites that captured the essence of the issue.
When I got more and more interested in the topic of gender and sexuality, instagram posts explained the enormous amount of different identities and orientations as well as their variations and distinctions, taught me ways to positively interact with people that were adverse or ignorant to the enormous spectrum of gender and sexuality and showed me that asking and trying is always better than being scared of failing.
Trigger alarm: sexual abuse and rape
And when the rape lagislation in the Netherlands (as well as other countries in Europe) came under questioning, I immersed myself in posts describing the horrors of rape, sexual abuse and intimidation as well as statistics showing the amount of people that actually experience these traumatic events, both men, women and people that don’t identify as such.
Then there is another part of my newer feed that I would like to highlight, namely the self-confirming, body-positive and empowering accounts/posts that I have recently found. It is not as informative or activating as the posts I’ve described before, but it is so renewing and important to have on your feed. These posts shifted my gaze and really changed my view and attitude towards certain parts of society. The most important one is body positivity. Since I can remember, the beauty standard (at least for women) has been skinny, fit and curved (how very skinny and curved go well together had been a mystery to me before but nonetheless I had accepted this standard as my ideal), in general that is not the body that your average person has… there are always some saggy bits, unevenness, or rolls that ruin it. For me, and probably everyone around me, this has caused insecurity and, at times, hate towards my own body. But as I saw more and more body positivity popping up on my Instagram, it started to change my view towards my own body as well. I no longer see my body as needing to be perfect, as long as I am happy with my body and as long as it sustains me in every part of my life, I am a very lucky person. Instagram has taught me how to embrace all that I am and love my body in all its imperfections as well as hardened me to opinions of others. I no longer care if my dad jokingly says ‘hold in your belly, you look pregnant’, I own it, I ask him why he thinks it’s necessary to point it out (he isn’t as thin as he once was either) and say that I am proud of my body, even with a ‘food-baby’ belly.
I know that Instagram has, and still is, causing a lot of issues, including eating disorders, body insecurity/hate, bullying, mental problems and so much more. But when you consciously choose to remove the things that make you feel inferior from your feed and search for things that empower and strengthen you as a person, it can become a very beautiful and inspiring place.
If you want to spice up your Instagram feed with these kind of activating and empowering messages as well, here are some of my favourite accounts: