You are What You Eat? What About, ‘You Are Who You Follow Online’?

Image via Andrea Piacquadio

With people spending so much of their free time on social media, the accounts they choose to follow can surely have a significant impact on their own views of the world. Social media can serve a variety of purposes such as entertainment, education, connection, and more, but one result that may be overlooked is how much social media can influence our own ideologies.

Evaluate the Feed

Especially beginning in 2020 with the pandemic, there was a shift in the type of content I was seeing on my social media pages. The validity of vaccines, the rise of the BLM movement, government laws regarding abortion, and knowledge into the inner workings of corporations, to name a few. These, and others, weren’t topics that were new by any means, but they were receiving a new kind of attention. Movements, news sources, and individuals were able to take more control over the narrative and provide their own resources, education, or insight without it being lost or misinterpreted.

During this time, I decided it was necessary to do a more thorough audit of my own social media, especially Instagram, and evaluate who I was following. To be honest, many of the creators and influencers I followed were mostly white, straight, young, females. The creators of colour that I did follow often rarely appeared on my feed. I began to use Instagram more as a news source. I found some accounts that provide resources and information as part of their platform. If there was a news story I heard about, I would try to find a direct source and see what they were saying about it themselves. A great thing about social media is it does give people and groups the opportunity to speak for themselves without their words being skewed by the media.

The Desire to Diversify

More recently I had sort of a realization that not everyone had made an effort to diversify their feed in the same way. Of course this makes sense, I logistically could not expect everyone to branch out with their learning. However, I didn’t realize how far some would go to ensure they weren’t being exposed to new information. In fact, while some people seek out accounts where they can learn, others are seeking out accounts that have the same ideals as them, problematic or not. Many people out there have no urge to expand their knowledge or be open minded on concepts they know little about. They seek others to validate their own opinions which only furthers their narrow minded thinking. Or it can involve people with little direction that are looking for an ideology to follow. This might be when people are more likely to follow or be influenced by celebrities or other figures they recognize. Often this can be the case with young people using social media who do not always have the same critical thinking skills. I feel this is in part why people like Joe Rogan and Andrew Tate can grow such a following. As Psychology Today discusses, this becomes part of a much more complex psychological phenomenon known as social psychology. This is why it is so important to consume a variety of media and news, and not take the opinions of one person as fact.  

Always Room to Grow

Picture from Matt Bernstein‘s Instagram

Two of the accounts I gain the most knowledge from are Matt Bernstein and ON CANADA PROJECT. I find they present important, difficult topics in ways that are easier to understand and more digestible. They also give great starting points of understanding for those interested into diving deeper into the issues. The news can be heavy and overwhelming for many, including myself, so finding sources that resonate and present in ways that speak to you personally is important. I also know that if I am not in the right headspace to consume the news, I can scroll past them and revisit their pages later without having to be worried about seeing a graphic or alarming photo as the first slide. There are so many people that take their own time and energy to educate others and put together resources, often at their own expense (mental and monetary), and I think these kinds of social media creators need to be recognized and praised just as much as other influencers.

There is still a lot of room for me to grow to keep an inclusive and diverse following. I try to follow and interact with people from a variety of different backgrounds. Some for informative content, and some for more fun content too. By no means do I think my platforms are perfectly balanced for who I follow. But I am much more conscious now of who I follow, who I continue to follow, and how often I go through my followers list. I am looking for accounts that challenge my thinking and give me insight into lived identities I may not know much about. I definitely have noticed a shift in my thinking from this change in who I am following. Seeing content from BIPOC, members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, disabled creators, and those living in bodies of various sizes, has certainly altered what is ‘normal’ for me to see on a regular basis even if I don’t have those encounters as much in the physical world. While there is still a lot of research that could be done into how who we follow online shapes the world views we have, there are already indications showing that diversity has positive impacts – so why not try!

What accounts do you learn the most from? Favourite BIPOC creators – educational or fun? Has there been an influential figure that you unfollowed because you thought they were negatively affecting you?  

Promotional Posts;

Are you trying to be a better person? Maybe you need to take a look at who you’re following online… 👀 #socialjustice #socialmedia #influence

When is the last time you actually looked through your list of who you follow? It might affect your own thoughts more than you think. Is it time for a social media review?! 🤔

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