How Social Media Informs Black Women’s Self-Perception
We’ve been there before, scrolling mindlessly through Instagram only to see a photo of a curvaceous, full-lipped, brown-skinned girl… except she’s not Black. Just last year, a Twitter trend surfaced exposing non-Black women for what came to be known as “Blackfishing.” By artificially darkening their skin, manipulating their faces with contour, and slicking down their baby hair, these women obtained all of the characteristics of Black women – except the melanin.
Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian posted a video of herself strutting her bronzed legs coated in her new line of body foundation, which was quickly met by online critique, accusing her of darkening her skin, striving for Blackness and appropriating Black features – yet another example of the commodification of blackness and subsequent invalidation of real Black women. Time and time again non-Black women are praised for appropriating features and characteristics that Black women naturally possess. When a Black woman simply exists in their natural skin we are shamed for it, mocked, hypersexualized, fetishized, and even sent home from school for being too Black.
So, let’s unpack this. This repeated imagery and associated cultural dynamics have the potential to inform our self-perception due to inadequate visuals that authentically portray and uplift Black women. The subliminal meaning of this recurring issue is simple and devastating: Black women are constantly told that we are simultaneously too much and not enough. We’re told we’re unworthy of love, happiness, joy, and pleasure. Our ability to feel empowered is inhibited by our frequent marginalization and reconciliation between our own self-perception and the way the world perceives us. In the age of social media, for a Black woman, self-affirmation is a radical act.
Need some ideas on how to self-affirm in the age of social media? We’ve got some tips:
Tailor your Feed. The conversation around the importance of creating safe spaces extends to social media. Reconsider the accounts you follow on Instagram or Twitter and trim the fat. Allow intentionality to inform your choices around who you follow by exclusively following accounts that bring you joy and celebrate Black beauty.
Unplug. If you’re feeling like social media is weighing you down, inducing anxiety, or triggering something within you, it’s okay to take a break. Step away from your device and practice self-love and affirmations with your number one – you.
Tap into Reality. There are many positives about social media but it can also be a time suck and an endless vortex. If you find that you’re spending more time on social media than connecting with your friends in real life, adjust your priorities and focus on what or who is in front of you.
Speak Up. Keep your online circle accountable and call folks ~in~ to discuss perpetuating anti-Blackness or body shaming. While you may not entirely shift their mindset, by adding to the conversation and challenging normative beliefs you can make a small but mighty impact.
Revisit the classics. Nothing re-affirms just how great it is to be a Black woman like soaking up Black women excellence. Whether it’s listening to your favorite R&B artist, reading a book by a Black female author, or indulging in your favorite film or television show starring a Blacktress, spend some time enjoying the creative and artistic expressions of great Black women.
Social media can be a beautiful means of interpersonal connection and community, however, it can quickly become toxic if unchecked. It’s entirely up to you to decide how you choose to use social media and how frequently you do so. By intentionally cultivating affirmative online spaces, and unplugging when necessary, you can protect yourself from the harmful imagery that swirls around the web. When those images inevitably pop up on your feed, all you can do is ensure that you are equipped with the tools and knowledge to practice positive social media habits and shift your focus to internally check-in and reaffirm your own self-worth and #Blackgirlmagic.