How to use social media as a force for good, a guest post by Crystal Maldonado
Since I was in elementary school, I’ve been on social media—first via America Online, then on websites like Livejournal and Tumblr. It was considered quirky then, but now the entire world seems to perpetually be on social media—sharing memes, consuming news, making connections, creating art, arguing, or posting think pieces on “Encanto” (yes, I will be reading every single one, thank you very much).
It was my long-standing appreciation for social media that helped spark the idea for my sophomore YA novel NO FILTER AND OTHER LIES. I wanted to create a character whose obsession with social media goes a little too far and also highlight the pressures of existing in that digital space as a teen.
The result is the story of a 17-year-old fat, Puerto Rican girl named Kat Sanchez who gets swept up in the thrill of Instagram, going so far as to steal a friend’s photos and creates an entirely new identity on the app. The validation, appreciation for her art, and acceptance from her followers are too much to pass up—to the detriment of her own self-identity and worth.
In my heart, I really feel for Kat. Haven’t we all found ourselves wishing at one point or another that we could magically become someone else, even for a moment?
For me, these feelings can sometimes bubble up in times when I least expect it, like when I’m scrolling through my social feed and it feels like every other person in the world is out living their best life, traveling, going out with friends, eating a delicious meal, or capturing a flawless selfie. Meanwhile, there I am in my pajamas, with my hair a mess, and chomping on some of my toddler’s leftover goldfish crackers. Not exactly glam.
In moments like those, I remind myself that every single social media post is a simple snapshot of a perfectly curated moment in time. I should know. For nearly a decade, it was my job to create those posts. But there’s a reason the “Instagram vs. Reality” trend has taken off on social, like this photoshoot I did for my book FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA.
What we see on our social media feeds is very rarely real. Yet even when we cognitively know that, it can sometimes be hard to remember, which is why I think it’s important to put in the work and make our social media experiences as positive as possible.
Tips for using social media as a force for good
- Curate your feed. Consider: What are the things you love? What are your passions or hobbies? What makes you happy? Actively seek out accounts, users, hashtags, and communities that celebrate those things, you, and your existence and hit that follow button. For me, that means my feed contains a healthy mix of posts by friends and loved ones, fat fashion influencers, bookstagrammers, artists, Latinx-owned businesses, and Beyoncé (obviously).
- Set limits. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from social media, however big or small. I’m a perpetual scroller, so I get that it can feel like we need to be on all the time, but sometimes the best thing to do is to put your phone down and do something else. When you come back to social, you’ll be in a better headspace and appreciate what you’re seeing.
- Use your profiles to create your own highlight reel—and use it for you. People often say social media isn’t “real” because it hides the ugly and hard parts and simply highlights the good in someone’s life.. I say we thoughtfully use that idea on our profiles as a way to remind us of the positive things in our lives. It might seem a little silly, but as someone who has a tendency to get a little in my head about, well, everything, I try my best to post things that genuinely make me smile. Then, in moments of darkness, I can look back on my posts as a reminder of all of the beauty and light in my life.
- Unapologetically delete, mute, and unfollow. If there’s something or someone that pops in your feed that makes you feel bad about yourself, questions your worth, or overall gives off bad vibes, don’t hesitate to delete, block, unfollow, and move on. Your social media is for you and you alone. Forget everyone and everything else.
- Never, ever catfish. It’s always better to be yourself. Take it from Kat Sanchez.
Though social media can sometimes cause stress, it can also let light into our lives, if we let it.
For every troll insistent on driving wedges between us, there’s someone finding a community that finally feels like home, old friends reconnecting over a shared passion, or a brave soul using their voice for the first time. No filter needed.
Meet the author
Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, is a 2021 New England Book Award winner, a Cosmopolitan Best New Book, and a POPSUGAR Best New YA Novel. Her next novel, No Filter and Other Lies, explores teenage life in the social media age—and the lies we tell to ourselves and others.
By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on her phone, and being extra. Her work has also been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant.
She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. Find her everywhere @crystalwrote or crystalwrote.com.
About No Filter and Other Lies
Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.
Except it’s all fake.
Max is actually 17-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence—just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love.
But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get—texting, Snapping, and even calling—the more Kat feels she has to keep up the façade.
But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.
But it might already be too late.
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 02/08/2022
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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