Body Positivity Instagram Accounts - Helpful or Unhelpful?
#bopo #readon #howdowemakesenseofinstagramactivists #dontstopreadinguntiltheend #itgetslessconfusing #ipromise #herewego #ready #set #go
With over 500 million monthly users, Instagram is able to combine individuality and community so flawlessly, we don't even notice it. The social media platform creates a space large enough for what seems like open communication yet small enough to create a sense of intimacy between ‘poster’ (aka someone who posts) and follower or even between fellow followers. Within targeted communities (like bopo/ed recovery/self love, etc.), the sense of community can be so strong you even identify with the other instagrammers—you call them your friends, you empathize with them when they post about struggles, you fist pump with them when they post empowering pictures or captions, you look up to them, you know them. But you don't know them, you know their Instagram self, which is an example not of their actual inner selves, but of the manifestation of society that a social media platform like Instagram promotes. Still with me? Let’s keep going.
I'm sorry if I just shattered your vision of the Instagram accounts you follow. But in an effort to reconstruct that vision of rainbows, full tummies, real bodies, plates of food, sparkles and open hearts, here’s my take on the bopo and recovery Instagram community.
(Now you’re deep in this article, can’t stop reading now…) In becoming aware of the way we interact with Instagram profiles themselves and the lack of interaction with the people behind the profiles, we are actually shortening this distance. In realizing that every time I scroll, like, comment, read through posts and captions, I am claiming my selfhood within this community by relating to these other selves through the screen. And what is this selfhood I am claiming? As I read more works by Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir and Hegel and other people who thought a lot and then wrote a lot about how they thought a lot (#sociology #philosophy), I start to think of my own life in terms of the dynamic between society and self. What even is the dynamic between society and self? Or for our purposes, what even is the dynamic between body positivity community and myself?
Each of the posts I took a screenshot of above is working to challenge a well internalized idea of diet culture, glory in the pursuit of thinness, success in quantitative measures, becoming a better person through regimented fitness or even associations with certain foods. Each of the “warriors” I chose to highlight has created a specific hashtag and a certain space through which to challenge these ideas. Each of these people, be it a conscious act or by-product of self-empowering posts, challenges the norm of today’s society and makes a move towards an internalization of a different norm—all without any of us really noticing. No, this is not what I think about when I scroll through my Instagram feed and see that @omgkenziee posted a new #cellulitesaturday post or that @amalielee posted a new #realrecovery post. But if we take a step back, we can see that #embracethesquish is not just about simply embracing your squish. It's about something bigger. It is a deeper perhaps subconscious normalization of embracing the idea that our bodies shouldn’t the holding grounds for all of our frustrations and feelings—the idea that food is tied to the way we look is tied to the way act is tied to the way we think is tied to the way we succeed or fail, is tied to who we are. And these are all great effects of these accounts. I follow many of these accounts, I have even created one myself. At first, I loved them. I looked up to the people behind the accounts and it made be want to be vulnerable, happy, sad, anxious, body positive, intuitive just like them.
Then a commercialist and capitalist view of the world got the best of me, and I hated them. I thought they were self-promoting, self-advertising, created for the sake of external validation, needed by the people who created them to sustain recovery.
If recovery and happiness is only sustained by an Instagram account and the number of followers you have, what does that say about the type of recovery being promoted? And since we’re ever-changing and our beliefs are always transforming, I must admit I now love them again. But only because I see them in a different light, in a light that helps me reconcile the idea between gaining followers on a social media platform (which has become a normalizing measure itself) with the intention of challenging a deeply rooted and internalized societal norms. And as soon as I started thinking of them in this way, these accounts became so helpful in not only solidifying, but also maintaining my own recovery. So…yay for social media?
Whatever you make of this, chew on it. Swallow to internalize it. Enjoy the taste of it. Water it down with some distance. Digest it and use all of its nutrients. …while I go do all of that with my lunch now as I scroll through my Instagram feed.
About the Author:
My name is Sima Vazquez and I’m a 19-year-old college student in Chicago. Originally from Miami, FL, I’m multilingual and thrive in the sunshine. I started battling my eating disorder throughout my high school career, and can say that I have learned an infinite amount not only about myself, but also about the people around me, interactions I exchange, and thought processes that shape my view of the world. I genuinely find fulfillment in making a difference, and am an aspiring surgeon on the pre-med track. Yet, I love reading and writing, so have decided to pursue that passion through an English Major. I love learning and thinking in new ways and plan on continuing to do that without being limited by any type of eating disorder.