Yes, social media can be unhealthy. We’re inundated with advertisements, photographs of lifestyles we cannot even begin to achieve, and influencers who make money off of our insecurities. But — get ready for a hot take — social media content consumption can also be good for you.
If you’re a fan of reality TV, you make the choice to follow the ridiculously pretty, toned women featured on The Bachelor. If you’re a fan of makeup, you choose to follow makeup artists and YouTubers whose skin never seems to breakout or hair never seems to have a bad day. These choices go beyond downloading an app or making an Instagram account. You choose to engage with a particular type of media on these platforms.
I went through a phase in which my Instagram feed featured dozens of women—influencers, reality TV stars, and actresses—who neither looked, dressed, nor acted like I did. I would spend hours scrolling through images of women in perfect relationships with perfect bikini bodies, affording luxuries I could only dream of. As an added layer, the majority of these women were white and privileged in a way I could never be as a South Asian woman from a lower socioeconomic group.
We’ve all been there, especially people of color, and that’s how social media hooks you — it makes you want more while simultaneously doubting yourself.
The advantages of social media
However, I began to realize that alongside the perfectly curated images on my Instagram feed, there were also hundreds of accounts that catered to a wide range of other topics.
For instance, I follow a number of Instagram accounts that feature videos or images of healthy, sustainable meals. Not only do I often save these recipes to try out, but I also learn about meal-prepping in a manner that doesn’t emphasize diet. Many of the accounts I follow, such as detoxinista, fitfoodiefinds, buzzfeedtasty, or pickuplimes share healthier versions of “unhealthy” foods, or simply make cooking easy. As a foodie and a baker, I love experimenting or trying a healthier version of a dish I’m craving, and these Instagram accounts are great for inspiration.
Similarly, I follow influencers and YouTubers who strive to project their reality, as opposed to a carefully constructed version of reality — and uplift women, specifically women of color. From the South Asian founder of the makeup brand LiveTinted who always features makeup brands by women of color, to bodyposipanda or Aerie, who strive to show images of what real women look like, I choose to support and engage with people and companies who are making a change for the better.
How I curated my feed
I want to come away from an Instagram break feeling enthusiastic and happy instead of dejected or upset, and that has meant intentionally unfollowing accounts that are toxic for me and choosing to fill my feed with other types of content.
I also follow South Asian writers, artists, and poets to feel more connected to my own roots. Through social media, I’ve been able to find role models that look like me when, unfortunately, I don’t have that in my day-to-day life. Instagram allows me to engage with women of color who inspire and uplift me and my identity, which is an aspect that often is forgotten or unacknowledged in my corporate finance career.
If social media is a negative space for you, my recommendation is to start small. Find one or two brands or YouTubers you love and check out Instagram’s “suggested” accounts that pop up when you follow a new account. You can even unfollow and re-follow an account you’re already following and see what other accounts Instagram suggests. There’s something out there for everyone. For example, I most recently began following a number of therapists who post content that makes me evaluate how I approach my relationships, especially to myself. I’ve found that type of content genuinely leads to self-care for me as opposed to content that leads me down a rabbit hole of self-doubt in which I feel as if I need to get an expensive mani/pedi to look good and take care of myself.
I’m not saying I don’t still get caught up in a cycle of social media toxicity. But more often than not, when I engage with social media, I feel connected to a larger community. Aside from inspirational accounts, I only follow my close friends and family members — people whose lives I know well enough to not be fooled by their Instagram veneer. Overall, I see the app as an opportunity to engage with content that allows me to reflect, learn, and grow. It’s just a matter of setting aside some time, unfollowing the accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, and finding accounts that spark joy, as Marie Kondo would say.
Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.
Image via Pexels