To start, I want to state that yes, I am a blogger and I occasionally get paid (though no where near as much as Essena). I understand how overwhelming social media can be and where Essena is coming from with some of what she is saying.
I think that Essena opening up with her experiences of social media is enlightening, inspiring and most importantly, real. But the key phase there is ‘her experiences’ – it’s her view that ‘women are plastered against each other’ because that’s the industry she chose. Not every social media page ‘compares women based on their physical fitness, how clean their diets are, how clear their skin is’ – that was Essena’s chosen area, and it’s narrow minded to suggest that all social media has this effect, that all bloggers are out to mislead and misinform the population.
So yes, Essena has shed light for many women who yes, probably idolize many ‘famous’ or influential women and maybe, yes, some of them ‘compared and contrasted’ themselves to these figures in the photo. But not everyone.
Which is why I wholeheartedly DO NOT agree with quitting social media.
Social media is here to stay and has good reason to. Essena has well and truly reinforced this by announcing the change on social media and keeping her accounts active + creating a new Vimeo account. And it all spread, via social media – of course.
Social media isn’t evil and can be a transformative space for positive change in the world we live. Never has international news spread so fast, never has it been so easy to support charity or sign petitions or contact extended friends and family.
Instead of going out to crucify social media and all that Essena has narrowly portrayed it for, it’s important we recognize it’s true value and learn to use it in its most effective way – to restore equality, health and opportunity to all.
And how do I know this?
In my last semester of my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy we have learnt about ‘Social Change’. Social Change is about sustainable and ongoing change, which creates an inclusive, just, respectful and diverse society. The entire cohort used social media with the purpose of restoring injustices where people were not having their basic Human Rights fulfilled. From domestic violence to sustainable projects in Nepalise communities – we all addressed areas where a violation of Human Rights exists, and we all did so via social media. All of the projects were extremely successful, in fact you may have seen some of them in your newsfeed (though I have provided some links below).
As a member of a global community, we are all responsible for the Human Rights of others, regardless of boarders. Every single person deserves their Human Rights. Social Media can help us spread this message and this is only one positive action that social media can create. One, of many.
Think – how are you reading this? Social Media. Where did you find out that kale was good for you? Social media. Where did you find out that kale was apparently bad for you? Social media. Where do you read the news? Social Media.
It [social media] is, however, the greatest tool ever invented to mobilize resources in times of need and as a catalyst to galvanize seemingly unrelated people behind a common cause or issue.
Social media can go either way – empowering or disempowering.
Essena has empowered women to second guess the beauty/fashion industry, but ‘quitting social media’ isn’t going to help continue that notion.
The point is, just because Essena is quitting (if she really is) doesn’t mean that everyone has to. Essena is forfeiting a very influential avenue to create widespread and long lasting change. Though her followers have sky rocketed since the dramatic announcement (not much of a surprise, given the power of social media), Essena could have easily made a positive and effective change sooner, while continuing (if she chose to) her modelling career (which undoubtedly, she still worked incredibly hard for if she is like any other model I know).
Successful social media influencers NEED to recognize the potential they have and their ability to raise vital awareness for others, and not just themselves. One post from Essena 2 months ago advocating for a charitable/life changing sustainability project in a developing country could have sky rocketed the success of that organization.
I’m not trying to criticize Essena, I’m just trying to reinforce that going out with a big bang isn’t necessary.
I pose to bloggers – use your social media influence for positive change. Empower others and yourself through your posts. Make content meaningful, stick to your gut and follow your intuition. For example (and I’m surprised I’m suggesting it), Kylie Jenner’s #IAmMoreThan anti-bullying campaigns.
Stay true to yourself.
I pose to followers – look with critical eyes, show your support for genuine causes and try not to get caught up in the whole idolization phenomenon. People behind their phones are just people, just like you, just like me. Follow genuine social media users who share a purpose similar to your own or who share content that enables you to lead the life you want to.
Quitting social media isn’t the answer, embracing it for all of its positive and life changing potential is the solution.
Social Change Projects: