Soft Bellies & Hashtags: The Good Side of Social Media

Hello, Internet darlings!

Social media can sometimes be a dark, negative place. Obvious, stated. As easy as it is to scroll down into an Instagram or Twitter hole and not come up for hours, I think we all know that may not always be the best thing for ourselves or our time. Research on the impact of social media on our mental well-being is a growing field, but there’s still so much to be explored as the digital landscape grows and morphs.

But as you can very well tell from the title, I’m not here to get into the negatives. One of the most exciting things about social media, from my perspective, is that creators and activists can share their work without having to depend entirely upon traditional media sources. In particular, I’ve been interested in and excited by the images you can find on social media, which help fill in the diversity gap that still exists in more traditional outlets. Don’t get me wrong—traditional media sources, from advertisements to magazines to television shows, are making improvements. Fenty Beauty made headlines at its launch last year not only because of its celebrity creator, but because it celebrated diversity at every step, from its product range to the accompanying campaign images. But for every big step forward, we still have a loooong way to go. Thankfully, activists and creators are stepping up to the plate via social media. Let me introduce you to a couple of them.

Browsing Megan Jayne Crabbe’s Instagram account, @bodyposipanda, was my first foray into body positivity on social media. Growing up, Megan struggled with an eating disorder. Discovering the body positive community transformed her life, and she started her account to share what she’d learned. She uses her account to not only share quotes, illustrations, and reflections, but to make space for beautiful, loving photos of herself and other women. They are photos that may not find a place (yet!) in raditional media, but that deserve to be seen. (P.S. If after browsing Megan’s account you haven’t got enough, consider reading her fantastic book. I recommend it times one million.)

Another wonderful woman you should know is writer Keah Brown. Just over a year ago, Keah shared a few photos of herself on Twitter (see below!) with the tag #disabledandcute. As she told Teen Vogue, “I started it as a way to say I was proud of the growth that I made in learning to like myself and my body.” The hashtag took off, and other individuals with disabilities shared their own selfies and photos. People with disabilities are given hardly any space in entertainment and other media, and as Keah further explained, when they are, they are often turned into caricatures. With every selfie, #disabledandcute challenges those portrayals. (P.P.S. Keah has an upcoming book entitled The Pretty One, and I can’t wait for it to hit shelves).

At the end of the digital day, social media is what we make of it. If something makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow! But if you, like me, crave images that display diversity in beauty, they are out there. And they deserve a place in your feed.

xoxo

Marie

Celebrities Who Use Their Fame-Power for Good

Caitlyn Jenner Vanity FairToday is a very big day in Pop Culture Land: the Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover hit newsstands.  The cover made the internet rounds last week, so I’m sure by now you’ve seen it, as well as commentary on it from many a source.  Admittedly, I’m pretty selective as far as what comes up in my various feeds (the internet can bring you down, man!), but the vast majority of what I’ve read regarding Caitlyn’s cover story has been supportive.  Many have been cheering her on for not only making the change she felt she needed, but also for being open about her story in the hopes of helping others.  Watching all this unfold sparked me to reflect on some of my other favorite celebrities who attempt to use their fame-power for good.  Today seemed like a great day to acknowledge them.

Instagram: @ddlovato
Instagram: @ddlovato

One of my absolute favorites is Demi Lovato.  Over the past few years she has become an outspoken advocate for mental health.  In a number of interviews – including this beautiful recent on HuffPost Live – she has opened up about her own struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction, and eating disorders.  She often uses her well-followed social media accounts to speak out on relevant cultural issues.  Above and beyond all that, though, she’s teamed up with a few organizations that support mental health:  she created the Lovato Scholarship with CAST to help those who need mental health treatment access it, and she has also partnered with Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health to educate individuals on how to access mental health care for themselves and advance it within the community.  I admire Demi because she goes all out for what she believes in.

Instagram: @taylorswift
Instagram: @taylorswift

Taylor Swift, my favorite musician of all time, has taken the top spot of DoSomething.org’s “Celebs Gone Good” list for the past three years.  Part of what makers her so “good” is her commitment to donating to charity.  She’s even donated her music, so to speak; all the proceeds of “Welcome to New York” go to the NY public school system, and all the proceeds from “Ronan” are donated to cancer charities.  One of the things I enjoy about Taylor most, however, is how far she goes to connect with her fans.  There were the 1989 secret sessions.  Then there was Swiftmas.  Best of all, though, are the times she reaches out to fans on social media that are going through something, be it a bad breakup or even the death of a parent.  Taylor certainly has a knack for returning the adoration to her most devoted fans.

Instagram: @zendaya [Yes, that is her senior portrait, and I love it.]
Instagram: @zendaya [Yes, that is her senior portrait, and I love it.]
Last, but not at all least, one celebrity who has been on my radar lately is Zendaya.  That girl is so smart, and she’s not afraid (or doesn’t appear to be!) to speak her mind.  Most recently, she took to social media to say a few words about makeup (and the right we each have to wear it or not).  But what really struck me was her eloquent and intelligent response to an offensive joke made by the “Fashion Police.”  She could’ve just snapped back, but instead she used the opportunity to educate – and ultimately, forgive.  She seems to be the type of person who turns “bad” things into opportunities, and I admire that.

Here’s the thing:  it’s entirely reasonable to be skeptical of celebrities, even when they’re doing good.  The celebrity world is a very fun one to observe, but it’s also meticulously crafted, and at times, fake.  So it’s healthy to take it in with a proverbial grain of salt.

But beyond that initial side-glance, I have a few thoughts on the matter.  My first is, I get it.  No, I’m not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.  But when I first started writing, I had two driving impulses.  The first one, the initial spark, was that I wanted to write things that would help people the way things I’d read helped me.  The second was, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if my stuff reached lots and lots of people?  If in the process of helping others, I made a name for myself as well?  And that’s the reality.  I don’t think impulse #2 takes away from the good of what I’m trying to do.  If anything, it’s become a good checkpoint:  am I writing this because it’s a message I believe in, or primarily because I think it’s very social-media-sharable?  And I think, or would like to believe, that for celebrities like the ones I’ve mentioned, the sentiment is fundamentally similar.  In fact, Caitlyn Jenner has already addressed potential skeptics head-on:

“I’m not doing it for the money.  I’m doing it to help my soul and help other people.  If I can make a dollar, I certainly am not stupid.  [I have] house payments and all that kind of stuff.  I will never make an excuse for something like that.  Yeah, this is a business.  You don’t go out and change your gender for a television show.  O.K., it ain’t happening.  I don’t care who you are.”

Perhaps I am overly optimistic.  Even if that’s the case, my next thought is this:  doing good is doing good is doing good.  If someone reads Caitlyn’s story, or watches one of Demi’s interview, and feels more educated or prepared to fight their own battles, great!  If a Disney Channel fan follows Zendaya on Instagram, and feels inspired to speak up for themselves the way she does, awesome!  And I have no doubt that tears and happy dances have been the direct result of Taylor reaching out to her fans.  If celebrities get a publicity boost from their do-good endeavors, that’s fine.  We can always use more good in the world, so whatever motivates someone – celebrity or not – to go out there and provide it, well, I’m all for it.

xoxo

Marie