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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

How Social media changed my life for the better.




Yesterday this article came up on my Facebook feed about an old online internet sensation who quit social media. The story explains how Essena O’Neil an 18 year old who, over 3 years had accumulated over 500, 00 Instagram followers. She built a career surrounding her social media and blogging profiles and one day she decided to quit it all. Upon her decision she deleted all but a few photos from her Instagram leaving the remaining with edited captions showing truth behind the images and talked openly and frankly about how miserable her life was even though in everyone else eyes she had ‘made it’. Included in the article was a video of her on YouTube breaking down in tears when explaining the pressures of being online and living what she described as a completely fake life. 



Watching the video she made detailing her obsession with social media left me feeling some sort of way. Her commentary on the darker and unseen side of social media made me think ‘Shit am I really disillusioned, is everything that I have built with my blog and my social media presence on line been a total lie? Most bloggers would not be able to deny orchestrating a photo or perhaps using an editing app to filter an image but does that mean we are all living a distorted truth?  Essena has now created a website dedicated to showing how destructive social media is. Honestly there is no denying her comments on society’s obsession with beauty, thinness and whiteness were accurate, we as a society are obsessed with those things there is no lie in that. She even references and admits to how she, in the past has been involved in cultural appropriation and explains why that just isn’t acceptable and for that I do hold respect for her. As well as this she talks about how having thousands of followers made people think she was happy and loved but instead admits she never felt more lonely hated every minute of her forced and contrived life.

However I must admit when I read her story about her feelings and relationship with social media, it doesn’t feel a whole lot like mine. See for me I owe the internet a lot. Being a visible plus size woman on the internet has not only helped me get past a time of self loathing and body hatred  but has gone on to help so many other women who have been told they aren’t worthy or beautiful because they are overweight.



Social media introduced me to a world of like-minded people, a place of acceptance and where for once being different could be celebrated. You only need to click on the hashtag ‘Effyourbeautystandards’ to see a world of diversity of men and women of all backgrounds, sizes, shapes, and colours, something that we would not see a lot of in traditional media. Maybe for those of us whose social media profiles main focus is on body positivity and acceptance might think that our world seems miles apart from Essena’s who admits her focus was to be conventionally attractive and perpetuate a perfect life. Personally my experience being online, sharing my outfits and my experiences has opened me  to receive messages from a woman all over the world who have said that simply me being visible and being comfortable in my own skin has helped change the way they see themselves. Taking a selfie or an outfit picture may seem shallow and narcissistic but what if people started to see it as positive? For so long women have been told to live up to unrealistic standards of beauty so the act itself of loving how you look and sharing that is a form of activism. Going against the norm is standing up and saying ‘Hey I don’t have to participate in traditional forms of media I can create my own’ I say bring forth the selfies and the bikini shots showing cellulite, rolls,and scars most people don’t look like models and that is a-ok. The conversations that happen on my page that help and uplift women are wonderful make me so happy.



Do I think Essena has some valid points to make about social media – absolutely. Her discussion on the disclosure of paid advertisements (and how she didn't disclose) should be discussed. People exposed to ads deserve to know they are being exposed to it and we all know that some bloggers just don’t do that. So yes there are parts of her experience that have highlighted issues that need to be addressed. As a person who has experienced the darker side of social media, like being found on a nasty hate forum, or experiencing abuse about my size and weight I know how it all works. But for me there are some really wonderful positives experiences that outweigh that. Here are some examples:

Without Tumblr I wouldn’t be exposed to half of what I have learnt about my privilege as a white woman or my privilege as a smaller plus size woman. Tumblr has been a platform that has covered issues that I would otherwise never see in traditional forms of news media. It has exposed me to the many inequalities that others suffer in this world.

Without Twitter I wouldn’t have been able to chat and engage in conversations with like-minded people and align myself with people who meet my political interests. 

Without Instagram I would not be exposed to the diversity and beauty of women of all shapes, colours and sizes, people with disabilities and people with stories that otherwise go unheard. 

Everything in life has its good and bad and I want people to know that you can choose what you expose yourself too. If someone or some page on the internet is making you feel inadequate then my friends, it is time to unfollow. We are all human and we create our life around us. Yes ‘real life’ is important, yes seeing your friends face to face and enjoying experiences without technology is important, so maybe take a digital detox once a week. Take time to be with your pals, hell meet the pals you have made on the internet and bond over the fact that social media brought you together. One of best friends in the world I met through Instagram and I am so grateful the internet brought us together. Most importantly if you feel like you aren’t happy then find help whether that is on the internet or stepping away from it. The world is beautiful and just because these days we are seeing it more through the eyes of a screen doesn’t mean it’s any less beautiful. 

On that note I want to share with you some of the Instagram accounts that make me a positive contribution to my life and say thank you to everyone who I have ever interacted with on the internet. You are a great person and I am thankful for the internet for allowing us to connect.

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Megan's Instagram is a place full of uplifting messages she describes herself as  ' A Recovered anorexic, recovered self-loather, trying my best to shatter the 'not good enough' mentality we've all been taught about our bodies. As you'll know if you follow my Instagram, I'm a big fan of belly roll love, exposing diet industry lies, and wearing pastels.' I love what she is about and I think you will too.

2.


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Not only is Volup2 magazine created and run by one of the greatest women I have ever met - Velvet D'mour but is a page dedicated to diversity of all kind. Velvet includes able bodies, disabled, people of colour, trans gender and sexuality of all kinds. Her message is strong , that difference is good and should be celebrated.




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I found Big Gal Yoga and Jess I was instantly obsessed. When you think of yoga you might thing it is something only slim women enjoy yet these two accounts are both excellent examples that you yoga and exercise is for everyone. When leaving their pages I feel inspired to move my body and practice mindfulness. 

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Jilly Peppa inspires me so much, her continuous positive outlook on her life and her success as a model with  muscle dystrophy is an example to girls with disbalities, showing them deserve to live their dreams. 

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Style like you is a wonderful page created by a mother and daughter due sharing the stories and lives of men and women from all different backgrounds. The project #whatsunderneath project aims to get people to remove their clothes to honor how 'style is not the clothes you wear. Their tagline is , 'it is comfort in your skin, it is your spirit, it is What's Underneath.'
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Jes Baker is an body positive activist that has used her platform to encourage women to be comfortable with who they are and how they look. She is witty and funny and a passionate person. Her book 'Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls' is out now and I have no doubt is a wonderful as her activism. 

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Humans of New York is one of my all time favorite pages. Started by Brandon Stanton a photographer from New York, the page is dedicated to sharing the lives of strangers he meets on the streets, discussing the real lives and issues that every day people suffer every day. There is not a day that I read his page and don't cry, the people and the stories he shares are so moving. 

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Essie a plus size model and the creator of the Golden Confidence is one of my favorite pages, not only does she share absolutely banging images of herself modelling but also shares other women who use the #GOLDENCONFIDENCE hashtag. Her page is bright and welcoming and she is not afraid to speak her mind which is one of the reasons I love her page so much.

9.

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I met Danie over 3 years ago after finding each other on an Instagram hashtag. When we finally met at an event we clicked and now three years later we are best pals and she is bridesmaid at my wedding. Her account is full of all things sass and individuality 


WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE INSTAGRAM/TUMBLR/TWITTER USERS? 
Leave me a comment below as I would love to be introduced to some new pages. 



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