From Essena O’Neill’s Instagram account

Every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and their Nan, and their cat, has written a ‘think-piece’ about the perils, and the wonders, of social media. This is mine.

I remember the first day I got the Internet so vividly, embarrassingly vividly. I was 12. We had it installed while my friend Amie was over, watching the technician, counting down the minutes until he’d be done. As soon as he left, so did my friend, so that instead of talking we could MSN chat. Since then, it’s been a love affair. Some of my best sleepovers as a teenage girl were spent sat around a desktop computer. I could timeline my teenage years alongside a timeline of MSN, Myspace, Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I can’t remember when I learnt, or maybe just realised that social media wasn’t necessarily ‘real,’ maybe I’m still learning, or maybe I’ve always just known. With every thought of “wow, her skin is great,” with every negative twang of shame at my own blemishes, I’ve always had an awareness of filters, good lighting, and make up more expensive than I can afford. I am also increasingly aware that there is no such thing as ‘real’, and there is especially no such thing as ‘normal.’

I grew up without filters. My first selfie was taken on a disposable film camera, being silly with a friend, I looked far from perfect, but that was fine.quote

What about the girls who can‚Äôt imagine a world without social media, because they‚Äôve never seen it? What about my nine-year-old cousin who already has an Instagram feed of orchestrated and filtered selfies. Do a quick search of the name Essena O‚ÄôNeill, and there‚Äôs the damage social media can do to someone’s¬†self esteem.

But, does it need to be this way? Is social media, is any media, inherently damaging? I read a wonderful article about taking control of your feeds. So I did. Today I unfollowed anyone who made me feel bad, feel envious, or feel ‘meh.’ In its place, I followed some inspiring, and brilliant, women. I followed writers, artists, book bloggers, and musicians. I followed women who will post a photo of their life, with the good, and more importantly, the bad that they’re overcoming.

Social media can of course cause so much hurt, so much damage, but only if we let it. Social media can be, and is, a platform to create. Social media can be a platform to create friendships, to create a network, to create a conversation, to share art.

My Instagram feed doesn‚Äôt damage my self-esteem like perhaps it used to; it brings me up. My personal favourites are Emma Gannon, Zoe London, Being Little, Viva Tramp, Katie Oldham, Laura Jane Williams, and Polly Vadasz. ¬†And of course, there’s Girl Museum‚Äôs Instagram! If you don‚Äôt already, follow our Instagram. Lets create an insta-community of positivity, of positive role models for young girls, celebrating girlhood in the way we do so well.

For reference, here are some of the best articles about social media, from some really badass women who are getting it oh-so-right.

-Chloe Turner
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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