Disrupting the Feed may be the leader when it comes to breaking down the toxicity of social media. The study asked teenagers to follow four inspirational women on Instagram. The follow list included activist Greta Thunberg, actress and activist Jameela Jamil, athlete Serena Williams, and former US first lady Michelle Obama.
What was the purpose? Following these accounts instead of popular influencers and internet gurus changed these teens’ feeds drastically. Instead of getting heavily-photoshopped photos showing off perfect bodies or ads for cosmetic and diet products in their feeds, these young people saw a more diverse sampling of people and content.
Disrupting the Feed is a collaboration between Dr. Terri Apter at Cambridge University and the educational charity The Female Lead. According to the study, 93% of teen girls said that their outlook improved after following more inspirational figures due to higher self-esteem and setting goals for themselves.
“Social media is embedded in the lives of teenage girls and we cannot stop it. Teachers, parents and politicians are all concerned about the negative effects on mental health,” said Dr. Apter.
Not all of the accounts followed were led by famous figures, but women that the girls personally found inspiring and uplifting. Among the accounts were human trafficking survivors, scientists, engineers, artists, and designers.
Dr. Apter compares traditional social media influencers and content as “junk food” — addicting and ultimately unhealthy. The study found that 68% of girls were only following accounts focused on beauty, fashion, and reality TV while boys followed an average of 12 varied interests.
The Female Lead’s site features a guide to get started on the project, making it easy for any social media user to join in. They compiled a list of accounts to follow, such as women falling under categories of body acceptance, sports, mental health advocates, women in STEM, politics, business, charities, and media.