Positive thinking, privilege and the alienation of Instagram

The Internet is the worlds go to for information, for better and for worse, for truth and for bullshit.

Everyone can now have a voice and while this theoretically creates a platform for true citizen democracy, it also opens doors for a whole lot of half truths and pretence.

Chloe King writes this polemic and powerful piece about radical self-love and why positive thinking will, in her words, ‘fucking ruin your life.’

It presents the idea that positive thinking and the radical self love movement as proposed by the likes of Gala Darling, is a manufactured reality for middle or upper class white women and negates the role class, race, gender and family opportunity provide in the ability to think positively and change your life circumstances.

Confronting stuff.  And she has a point.

Sites like Elephant Journal and Rebelle Society, which peddle similar radical self-love and radical self-expression, are clearly targeting young, white, middle class, ambitious, millennial women (like myself) who have the time, opportunity and privilege to sit around reading articles like The Art of Breaking Your Own Heart and actually believe that this is a real thing.

Radical self-love movements could be the Instagram equivalent of the magazine world. Ostensibly to make people feel better about themselves but in reality often fall short of this goal.

When was the last time you looked at a filtered, staged and curated Instagram post and felt amazing about your life?

Of course at times it is inspiring or uplifting but most likely heavily curated posts create moments of inadequacy, envy and even sadness at seeing images of lives you cannot, have not or do not live.

Instagram is set up to be a false representation of life and to curate our lives as ‘we would like them to look’ rather than as they are.

Glamourous, curated photos on social media alienate people by making them feel their life is somehow deficient in the same way radical self-help doctrines alienate those disadvantaged by social, economic and class structures who, no matter how much positive thinking or self-love they apply, have little control over changing their circumstances.

That being said, positive thinking can and does improve lives. All social movements have started with an attitude that things can change, they can be better and that people have strength in unity. If we adopt an attitude of despair, of hopelessness or of contempt for the world we have neither the strength nor motivation to fight for social change.

Perhaps ‘radically persistent and outward focused’ thinking is better placed than ‘radical self love’ then.

Chloe King’s words are certainly food for thought.

Does the radical self-help, positive thinking, social-media saturated, image-obsessed millennial world actually create meaningful change in our lives and for the lives of others?

Or does it lead to individualistic, narcissistic and unhelpful obsessions that distract our focus inward rather than motivating us to contribute to the betterment of broader social and economic conditions?

 

A question only we ourselves know.

I do believe however that if you wade through the false fads and shallow advice online you can find real voices that represent and inspire you. The online world is full of intelligent, thoughtful change makers whose ideas are shaping new models of connection and societal structures, provided action and ideas proceed hand in hand.

I will continue to follow my friends on Instagram and like photos of their lives. I will continue to support articles and posts that promote positive, helpful and meaningful attitude changes. And I will seek out more ways to support action upon these changes in that physical space out the window we call the real world.

But I will also seek to question life advice that makes everyone feel worse through reductionist paradigms and support opinions like Chloe’s which make us rightfully squirm, sweat and think ‘what exactly is worth living for?’

Like this? Follow me on Twitter.

 

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