We all know the rush of excitement that comes from a ding on your phone telling you another person has liked your post on Instagram, you got a Snapchat from a friend, or a stranger replied to the comment you left on a funny TikTok. I even sometimes imagine I heard or felt a vibration and am met with disappointment when I find no new notifications. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that social media has altered the way we look at ourselves and how we interact with others. We are hidden behind a screen, sharing or withholding our “like” with who we think is cool enough, pretty enough, adventurous enough, smart enough to follow in the first place. We have literally put filters on the pictures we post of ourselves and our friends to make absolutely sure we are seen in a certain light, how can we think that we are the same after years of perfectly curating each update that we let our followers see?
There are dozens of studies linking social media with a decline in empathy, but I don’t think it takes an ivory tower view to see that it affects the way we interact with people, how we measure our worth, and the way we talk to ourselves. But if social media is the problem the medium is the message, then one Instagram account is taking on the hard work of reviving the dying presence of self-love, self-worth, and love for one another.
We The Urban identifies their account as a community, with 3.4 million followers, and a bio that reads “Black-owned, celebrating inclusivity, self-love, and marginalized voices. Our posts have been proven to boost personal power by 1000%” with an orange heart emoji. Immediately aligning themselves with the groups that social media works against the most: marginalized communities and those who don’t see themselves represented in media, and those who find it hard to fight the battle to love themselves regardless of their social media presence.
With a platform as large as 3.4 million followers, inherent credibility is given to them by the masses of people that like, comment, and share their content daily. The affirming posts consist of pictures, reminders, and quotes titled things like Nine Things You Should Hear Today, In Case Nobody Told You Today, and Nine Ways to Manage Your Anxiety, accompanied by pictures of cityscapes and slices of urban life with an inspirational quote digitally added on top.
The presentation of easily digestible posts helps their content reach a wider audience. Aesthetically pleasing, monochrome color schemes, and anaphora-filled reminders make interacting with the account far easier and more enjoyable for followers and people who come into contact with their posts. These reminders to love yourself and let yourself grow instills a sense of calm, a peaceful refuge among the trash can fire that is the rest of social media. Especially targeted towards their audience of minorities and those with mental health issues, their content is relatable and helpful.
The picture above of the apartment building is a great example of their mission. Taking what would normally be looked over as a normal part of urban life, walking down the street and passing by a random apartment building, and using it as an opportunity to spread positivity and give a message of encouragement to people who are taking the time to work on themselves. The picture is visually simple and pleasing to look at, and the calming colors of blue and white add to the positive encounter that their followers experience.
Personally, I love the interjection of the tree branches on the side of the picture. We can’t forget that even if we live in an urban setting that connecting with nature is extremely important for our health (biophilia people!), and this post reminds us that nature is always there, even if we aren’t looking for it.
With an audience comprised of weary Instagram users, We The Urban in their gentle pushes to remind people to take care of themselves cultivates a community following oriented towards growth and supporting one another instead of a toxic environment of comparison.
Although this is just one mere account, I think We The Urban is a good example of how even amongst the hectic, hateful, and harmful posts and comments all over the internet, we can reach out towards one another and be encouraging rather than compare numbers of likes and followers.
Maybe there is hope for social media. Maybe we can repair the brokenness that comparison and material validation caused. And maybe, if we reach out and remind each other that we’re worth it, we can start to heal.