If you’d asked me a few months ago, I would have told you – in the full belief that I was telling the truth – that Instagram was simply not a body positive space. In the main feed, in the “discover” page, all I ever saw were photographs of slim, white women, usually in the throes of doing things to make them even slimmer.
Granted, sometimes I’d see two side-by-side photographs of said slim, white woman showing proof that “things aren’t always as they seem”! The right-hand pic would usually be a photograph of her feeling “fluffy” (but still looking totally slim), or sitting down showing off her “rolls” (folds of skin that happen because physics). They didn’t exactly fill me with body positive feelings.
In fact, I would have said that, overall, Instagram made me pretty damn unhappy. Those hours I spent scrolling through my feed at night? They simply reinforced the idea that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, slim enough, determined enough (because the one good thing about realising you’re not slim enough is knowing that you could be slim enough if you just tried harder, right?) or tanned enough. (Damn you, Ireland.)
A few months later, I am happy to report that I love Instagram again. I love scrolling through my feed and seeing photographs of a wide range of women. Even my “discover” page is now filled with diverse representations of women and animals and occasionally babies. I haven’t seen a Kardashian selfie in months.
It may sound really dim (I’m sure it does, in fact) but I hadn’t realised that I was only seeing one type of reality because that was what I was choosing to follow. Once I “turned the dial” (to steal Newstalk’s marketing speak), I realised that there’s a whole world of bad-ass body positive bitches and adorable animals (also body positive, in their own way) on Instagram who have given me hope for the future once more.
Meet Lizzo: a deadly singer, body positive activist and woman of colour whose Instagram is choc-full of positivity and joy. Don’t believe me? Watch her video for Good As Hell. See?
When I read about Esther in the Guardian, it was just the kick I needed to go vegetarian – but y’all know that already. Esther’s Instagram is full of adorable pictures of a pig just, y’know, loving life. I know this makes me sound like a simpleton, but sometimes when I’m feeling really shitty, I need to look at pictures of animals being so stupidly, stubbornly in love with life. It warms my soul.
It’s pretty tough to reprogramme years of fatphobia (society is fatphobic; that’s just a fact) and to get to the point where you don’t look at pictures or videos of cellulite and think, ugh, she should cover that up. I know that I’m not 100% there yet. But this Instagram account has definitely helped me reconsider my ideas of “beauty” and to recognise that, as a society, we are for some reason determined to find more and more ways to make women feel uncomfortable with the idea of being women. They also have a Facebook page for daily body positive promo.
I think this dog – with her sticky-out tongue and the incredibly dim captions her owner puts on her Instagram posts – has made me smile more times than any other one thing on this Earth. It’s such simple, silly humour but it never fails to make me smile. And while those captions may be a little idiotic at times, there’s something to be said for an Instagram account that has never once made me feel bad about myself.
And look: I know that the fact that somebody else’s Instagram account makes me feel bad about myself is my bad, not theirs. I’m not suggesting that people with ripped bodies shouldn’t share them – share away! I have just realised that I am so much happier when I’m following accounts that bring joy and positivity and food for thought into my life, rather than accounts that just make me feel somehow less than.