This was meant to be a recipe post about Raspberry Chia Slices that I made over the weekend. Somehow it turned into my view on social media and the health industry. I make no apologies – sometimes I have more to say than which smoothie you should have for breakfast!
I started this healthy eating blog because I battled with food issues for years, and after my own journey I still feel thrilled today at having found a lifestyle that works for me and makes me feel good. I am even more excited by the thousands of creative recipes out there that are begging to be made – I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love cooking!
Blogging is a bit narcissistic though – what makes me so sure people give a damn about what I have to say? The answer is, I’m not sure at all. So I do it because I’m passionate about it, and maybe I inspire just one person through sharing what I’ve learned. And that’s great, that’s enough.
However, it’s all too obvious that many blogs and social media accounts are less about sharing meaningful content and more about world domination in numbers. The number of followers you have on instagram becomes a validation of being liked, rather than whether what you’re doing is making a difference.
I’m not saying that having a big following is a bad thing, but we know how competitive social media makes people. It seeps into your subconscious even when you’re guarding against it. I question whether that competition then compromises the values that you started with, or if it’s possible to balance the two. Or is it possible to be active on social media as ‘a brand’ but really not care?
Recently I’ve been studying how ‘being healthy’ looks on instagram and facebook, especially to those who don’t subscribe to it. The sheer volume of smoothie drinking, yoga loving vegan bloggers (no offence to vegans!) has monopolised a movement that should be accessible to everyone – that is, being the healthiest, happiest version of yourself, however you define that. The fact is, many people simply don’t equate their best healthy selves with spinach and downward dogs.
I realise the irony of that statement given that I’m sitting here writing a post on my health blog, but my point is that too much of a good thing becomes annoying, offputting and eventually divisive, where people draw lines in the sand because the opposition has pissed them off too much to remain impartial.
There’s a rise of instagram stars who deliberately poke fun at the kale shakes and yoga poses taking over newsfeeds by posting satirical photos of how unhealthy their lives are. Take @deliciouslystella, created by comedian Bella Younger. Her account is hilarious, but when I read why she started it – ‘I used to spend four hours a day looking through Instagram and feeling bad about myself’ – I wonder what we’re really trying to achieve here.
Whether it’s impossibly beautiful vegan desserts or tanned bodies with rippling abs, ‘perfect’ selfies that take hours of editing or ‘candid’ lifestyle shots that would never happen in real moments, where is the fine line between using social media to share our passions with the world and using it to define our self worth?
Health should be about taking good care of ourselves and our bodies – it makes us feel good, and who doesn’t want that? But in this environment we have to be extra careful to also take care of our minds and aim for self improvement, not self promotion.