My Love-Hate Relationship to Instagram: It’s complicated

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Today is International Women’s Day. Since 1921 this day has commemorated the struggle for equal rights but is also used to take stock of the current state of things. Social media today is full of these topics. It’s a trend on the self-representation platform Instagram too–#womensday. So it’s time to think how presentation and competition for recognition are compatible with emancipation and a strong female image.

Yes, I have Instagram. I enjoy using the platform as a virtual photo album. I run around the whole day with my smartphone, why shouldn’t I update my friends and wannabe friends (i.e. followers) on all of my everyday meaningful achievements? And yes, I see so many negative sides at the same time, especially when it comes to buzz words like female empowerment and body positivity. It doesn’t come without ambivalence. Even so, it’s important that we question and consider how this relates to our emancipation.

Body Positivity – Self-Image versus Public Image

“It’s more important to me that strangers, acquaintances and friends see me and think, ‘Wow, great lady, great life!’ as if I really were as happy as I seemed for that 5 minutes, like the impression these photos give.” Nasti wrote these words for Im Gegenteil and they probably speak directly to a lot of us. If we aren’t careful, playing these roles for outside perceptions will become more important to us than our own inner well-being, ending up doing it 24/7. It goes further: we let ourselves be influenced in turn by public images, ones we consider desirable, because we want high follower counts and impressive numbers of likes. When the hashtag #bodypositivity suddenly makes you uncomfortable in your own skin, because time and again there is comparison to others and to public images that have little to do with the individual, then something is wrong. Or just like Käptn Peng raps: “We make fools of ourselves for the applause.”

Quo vadis, women’s rights?

Today is International Women’s Day. We celebrate freedom and equality, for which we didn’t have to fight ourselves. This was done by women of earlier generations, our mothers and grandmothers included. We often act as if everything has been settled, as if there is nothing more worth fighting for. This is wrong, as shown by the continuing injustices seen in society, which oppress women. The World Bank recently found that true gender equality only exists in six countries in the entire world. Six. We don’t often notice that our behavior on social media contributes to these feelings of shame and dependencies becoming stronger and more widespread again. We are too busy comparing ourselves with others, and have no time to listen to ourselves and really experience “body positivity.” And we just take it lying down. I ask myself, is there not another away? Can’t I use instagram and still be independent and love myself in the way I want to? Communication has changed, we are influenced visually and digitally and these influences do not dissipate easily. So instead, we need to change the way we use our media.

Love-Hate Relationship With Instagram – Self-expression and Solidarity

Let’s turn the tables for a moment. I follow a number of great women on Instagram, who fight for women’s rights throughout the world, like Waris Dirie. I follow organizations who fight for democracy and justice, like UN Women. And I follow artists, who are critical thinkers and express female empowerment without filters and Photoshop, like Rupi Kaur. Why do these people and organizations use Instagram? Well, because the feminist movement is already based on solidarity. And because social media can be, at its core, about understanding, connection and unity. There are many people who use Instagram and other platforms for their causes and not just for self-representation. They inform and enlighten, they start campaigns and they reach for incredible goals. They fight so that the female image remains strong, and so that people stand up for the rights of women across the globe.

A Balancing Act

Instagram – what should we think about you? I would say, it’s up to each and every one of us. And it remains a balancing act: what content receives the most attention? Which themes are discussed and which are not? Let us make strong and confident decisions, just as we would in everyday life.


Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash

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