Social Media is not a new phenomenon. For most of us, it is a huge part of our day-to-day life. For some of us, it’s our profession (hi). But it doesn’t come without its problems, negative headlines and controversy. With this in mind, it’s now more important than ever for us to understand how to create a safe space online so we can fully enjoy and embrace what I think is an incredibly powerful tool.
What is a ‘Safe Space’ online
It’s a bit subjective isn’t it? But the whole reason I wanted to write this post was because I’ve recently joined a few facebook groups which I don’t think are working for me. It made me question where my safe spaces are and how they relate to where I am on my personal journey.
So, for some context, this is in relation to me and my body, but this can apply to any areas of your life that you are navigating or feel passionate about.
After a week or so in the group, it’s apparent a lot of the members are in the very early stages of accepting their bodies and accepting fat bodies on the whole. A lot of the posts are in relation to weight loss, ‘loving’ their bodies and how to overcome negative feelings towards themselves.
It’s a difficult process and those early stages are TOUGH. I know, I have been there. But right now, where I am in my journey, it all feels a bit icky. I’ve worked incredibly hard to reach a stage in my life where I have reconciled my negative body image and self perception. I’m in a place of acceptance and moving forward, celebration. Reading these constant streams of self-deprecation, negative thoughts and specifically diet chat makes me feel incredibly sad.
I whole heartedly want to remove myself from any environments where this is still a thing. But surely, I’m throwing my fellow fats under the bus if I do that?
Don’t I need to be in the thick of it to truly make a difference? The simple answer is no.
If I am to make any sort of difference, I have to preserve my own sanity first and foremost, and concentrate on the message I want to get across and messages I want to consume. By staying in spaces that foster negativity I’m doing myself and those within them a disservice. I need to immerse myself in spaces that are appropriate for where I am on my journey, and hope that those who are still struggling are able to identify with the positive messages people like myself are putting forward.
So in a very long and rambling manner, what I’m saying is, a safe online space is one that’s appropriate to you.
How do I create and curate that space?
Think about what it is that you want to achieve. Why do you go online and on social media? Are you hoping to be challenged? Do you want to be entertained? Soothed, delighted, elated? All of the above? Then seek out accounts that do those things for you.
Find your people, the ones who align with your personal morals and ethics. The ones that, if you met them in real life, you just know you would get on with. Ask yourself questions – is it your sense of humour? Is it your aesthetic? Does it make you feel alive?
You see, that’s the beauty of social media, it has the power to do all those things and so much more. It opens up a door to a world you might not have ever known. It introduces you to people you might not have ever met. It’s a joyous, powerful tool and that’s why it’s so important to continually craft it to suit who you are and where you are in your life and create that safe space online.
It’s okay to mute and/or unfollow
I’ve been on social media for over 10 years now. In that time I’ve completely changed as a person. I became a mother, I got married and divorced. I’ve been through trauma and heartache, joy and pain. So it’s only fair to say that my outlook on life has completely changed and in-turn the people and accounts I followed 10 years ago will have changed too.
If someone or something, a brand or a blogger, an artist or even a cute cat is not working for you anymore, then hit that button and unfollow the shit out of them. You don’t owe them a follow.
We often feel obliged to stick with people out of misplaced loyalty, but it’s really okay to let go and move on. And if you’re not quite ready for that, then mute is your friend.
Be careful not to create an echo-chamber
This is all good and well, creating a safe space is incredibly important. But what’s also important is to ensure we don’t surround ourselves more of the same. While it’s okay to move on from old situations and people that make you feel uncomfortable and no longer align with who you are; It’s also important to follow people who inspire and challenge you to become the person you want to be.
Look at your feed and ask yourself – is it diverse? Does it give you an understanding of people who are not like you? Does it align with your personal ethos?
I could have a feed full of fat, white, able-bodied women who all look like me. But what good would that do me? I need to create a space that, yes has those who I identify with, but also has a mix of those who I don’t. Those who challenge me, excite me, entertain me, educate me.
Where to start?
Take a long hard look at your socials. Really read and consume what’s there. How does it make you feel? If it makes you feel terrible. Then mute/unfollow.
It’s okay to feel sad or even angry if it’s in a way that fires you up. And it’s okay to look at disgustingly pretty things like interiors or fashion shoots. But just make sure they’re not making you feel bad about yourself.
Comparison is okay if it inspires positive change, but if all it does is make you feel like rubbish, then it’s not healthy.
Chose inspiration over comparison. Choose education over frustration. Really dig deep and ask yourself how your social media makes you feel. If it doesn’t make you feel alive, then you need to make a change.