Shahed Ezaydi discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Instagram and how curating your own media streams could ensure that in the future we look to use social media platfroms as a tool for good.
Words: Shahed Ezaydi
It’s a funny old thing, Instagram. It is not honestly something I thought I would still be using in my mid-20s, or any form of social media for that matter. I first logged on to Instagram in 2013 and I genuinely thought it might just be another trend, like Bebo, that would be all the rage for a couple of years, and meet the same demise as its failed predecessors. But, here we are. We are approaching a brand-new decade and we are STILL obsessed with Instagram. I mean, I can count on one hand the people I know who are not on Instagram. They are a rarity and I wholeheartedly commend them for resisting the overwhelming tide of snaps and stories.
Of course, Instagram (and social media in general) has garnered quite the bad reputation in recent years. And rightly so. We spend more and more of our time looking at screens and scrolling through various social media apps. We are being overloaded with content all the time, and this over-consumption has led to us as a society having to face some nasty truths.
Instagram was highlighted a couple of years ago by the charity, Ditch the Label, as being the social media platform where cyber-bullying was most rife. As Instagram is an image-based platform, it makes sense that cyber-bullying and harassment would be more common on there – it has created a space where people can visually compare themselves with others. It could be centred in appearance or body image or maybe in showcasing the perfect social life.
The endless scroll through Instagram feeds can also have a negative impact on our mental health. I know it certainly has for me in the past. I think we sometimes forget that Instagram is something a person carefully curates and only shows others what they choose for them to see.
But, it’s not all bad. There are some positives to be gained from the world of Instagram. Although it has made me anxious and I do still sometimes find myself comparing my life to others, it has also had a positive impact on my state of mind. It has pushed me through some low points through just knowing that there are others who are feeling the same things that I’m feeling. The simple act of knowing that you are not alone is sometimes enough.
The huge positive with Instagram is that it is such a necessary and needed tool for education and awareness. There are countless people, organisations, and platforms using Instagram for the good. To share knowledge and resources on topics and issues that I for one was never taught at school. From intersectionality, to the reality of fast fashion, to colonialism and our whitewashed history. Stories and narratives are shared and given a platform – one that the mainstream media might not have given them and consequently, I might not have heard or read these stories. It has educated me a great deal. I once read somewhere that our Instagram feed should be built up as though we are reading a magazine or a newspaper. So that when you are scrolling through, you pick up information about a wide range of topics and interests, and you gain something from your time on there. And this is definitely something I have tried to incorporate into my own digital feed.
They say with knowledge comes power. In this case it is not so much power, but I found that there was a need within myself to want to do something to help in some way. You learn about all the injustices and inequalities in the world, and for me, this education formed into a process of action. I have been able to use Instagram to talk and engage with different people and groups that I might not have had the chance to meet offline. For example, this is how I ended up joining SheFest – by coming across their Instagram account and seeing all the wonderful work they were doing locally in my own backyard.
Like anything, Instagram comes packaged up with both good features and bad. Obviously, it shouldn’t be the one and only place we get our information and knowledge from. But it was such a useful entry point for me. You can uncover art and articles and organisations and campaigns, things you might not have seen or heard of otherwise, that can then lead you elsewhere (probably off Instagram) where you can learn more about the world. And really, isn’t that what all any of us want to do?
And so, here are some of my recommended Instagram accounts to follow that showcase perfectly how women in the North are taking action:
SheFest: A Sheffield based not-for-profit organisation that champions self-defining women’s rights and gender equality, through a whole host of inclusive events. They also run an annual fringe festival, in line with International Women’s Day, providing a female fronted addition to the North’s cultural calendar.
Aurelia Magazine: An online magazine based in Manchester/Liverpool that is dedicated to showcasing the personal feelings, thoughts, and experiences of women and non-binary people.
Salvaged Project: Lauren, based in Sheffield, has created a community that both promotes second hand fashion (sells some really cool clothes!) and raises vital funds for projects working with those affected by war.
Every Month: A Manchester based charity that provides free menstrual products to those living in poverty. Their period packs contain tampons, pads and a chocolate bar. Plus, their Instagram provides really useful and educational content around periods and period poverty.
Girl Gang: Spanning across the North, – in Sheffield, Manchester, and Leeds – Girl Gang has built up quite the community and hosts an array of events and workshops. They focus on inclusivity, creativity, and breaking down social barriers.
Love for the Streets: Based in Manchester and co-founded by Lily Fothergill, LFTS is a driving force for social change in young people. They aim “to empower 5.2 million young people to make an impact in their local community.” Their Instagram gives you a chance to see and learn from the work that they, and the young people they help, are doing.