Putting yourself out there online is hard. In fact, describing it as being ‘hard’ may be downplaying it, a bit. It’s something that I myself have been doing for upwards of five years. It’s also something that has come to shape my life and the direction in which I want to take it. Being someone who roars for all to hear on social media, there is an assumption placed on your shoulders that you are somehow superhuman. And that the negativity you face on a constant basis doesn’t affect you. It can and it does.
When I first ventured out onto Instagram in the hopes of spreading the message of The Body Confidence Revolution, I felt a compulsive need to be OK. Or to at least come across that way. I thought that I had to be in (or at least feign) complete control of my mental state and have zero insecurities in order to preach self-love to others.
Followers would constantly ask me how I got to be so comfortable in my own skin. Which of course, to an extent, I am. But what they wouldn’t see, beyond the posts and the hashtags, were my anxiety attacks. The physical pain that the thought of leaving my bedroom would bring. My self-harming. It almost felt like admitting that I was struggling made me a hypocrite. And that I didn’t deserve any room in this space.
It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve been completely open about where I am with myself and what I’m currently facing. Seeing other activists be so raw always fills me with the strength to know that I am not a failure by portraying the full spectrum of what it’s like to live with a mental health issue. There is such an abundance of support within the body positive movement. But, that doesn’t always outweigh the negatives that unfortunately go hand in hand with these types of activism.
I’ve been told that I’m an attention seeker. That nobody cares. That I should fuck off of people’s timelines. I’ve had rape threats. As well as being sent a bounty of imagery of male genitalia. For someone who doesn’t deal with plights such as anxiety and depression, this kind of stuff can be difficult to deal with. But this sort of more obvious unpleasantness is not the only kind of hazard to come out of partaking in online advocacy.
I often inadvertently find myself comparing my posts with other activists. I watch their likes and follows grow into the hundreds of thousands and wonder what I’m doing wrong. I get sucked into an imaginary world where my worth is determined by the numbers that follow my username. This, is the main reason I’ve taken several months out of social media this year. And I’m definitely better for having done so.
The next time you witness a figure on Instagram taking hatred from keyboard happy folks who know nothing of the life of that individual outwith the screen, or wonder why someone has altogether disappeared from the scene, just remember – we’re all human here.