January 21, 2019

I recently started using the screen time function on my iPhone, which gives me a breakdown of how much time I spend on my phone and where that time is spent. From this, I learned that a lot of my time is spent on Instagram.

For many, this realization might come as a reality check, forcing us to evaluate why we spend so much time on the platform. And, yes, many of us might turn to an Instagram "detox" in this moment. But instead of cutting myself off from the platform altogether, and missing out on what I actually enjoy (keeping up with friends and connecting with others in my industry), I’ve tried to use Instagram—and the rest of social media—in a healthier way. By using the platform as a tool for compassion, empathy, and education, my time spent with the app becomes less about procrastination and mindless scrolling, and more about intentional time well spent.

There are a number of wonderful educators, activists, and scholars who use Instagram and Twitter as platforms for communicating not only with their followers, but also with anyone who is interested in learning more about a particular topic. Instagram can be an excellent resource for expanding world views, learning about topics as they relate to intersectionality, wellness, accessibility, chronic illness, body positivity, and so much more.

If you’re interested in changing up your Instagram feed and want to use the platform as a tool for education, consider following the accounts below.

Read on for quotes from each person about their attitude and approach to social media.

ALOK

Alok (they/them) is a gender non-conforming writer and public speaker who dedicates a lot of their feed to educating followers on topics tied to the LGBTQ+ community. Tune in to their live sessions, during which they provide more in-depth talks on specific topics tied to gender and the trans experience.

Alok’s perspective on social media and how it can be used for good:

"I try my best to be unflinchingly honest on social media—about my pain and my power, my triumph and my tragedy, and all of the states in between and outside. Social media—hell, this world—can feel so isolating, and I feel like honesty, bearing witness to the enormity of everyone and everything makes it a little bit more manageable.”

Alice Wong

Alice (she/her) is a disability rights activist, an advisory board member for Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California, and a Presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability. Alice created @DisVisibility, a Twitter account dedicated to amplifying disability media and culture, by sharing opportunities, news, and more from the community.

Some of Alice’s thoughts on social media:

"Social media is the main way I share information to people in the disability community. Using Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, and blogging, I try to tell my story, amplify the work of others, and encourage conversation since many of us are looking for one another. I also learn so much from the people that I follow online. I am grateful to be connected with disabled people all over the world doing amazing things. Without social media, I wouldn't be the activist I am today."

"Without social media, I wouldn't be the activist I am today."
- Alice Wong, @DisVisibility
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Mia Mingus

Mia (she/her) is an educator, writer, activist and community organizer for disability justice and transformative justice. Mia’s Instagram and blog are both dedicated to raising awareness and creating visibility for different issues as they relate to disability and intersectionality.

Mia’s mission with Instagram and social media:

“The only social media I consistently use is Instagram. It feels more intimate than other social media platforms, and I try to use my posts to educate and inspire, as well as expand and shape conversations. I am often posting things about disability, ableism and access; or accountability and community responses to violence, harm and abuse.

In general, I have never really had much of an affection for social media, but I have been surprised at how much I have actually enjoyed Instagram. I have met and connected with so many people from all over the world, which I never expected and have also learned a lot from other accounts.

One example of expanding and shaping conversations is the plastic straw bans that are popping up in cities across the country. (For people with mobility issues, plastic straws are often necessary in order to drink, as NPR reports.)

Many folks have shared that their thinking has been changed from my posts about it. Social media was a great way to share information about the bans in accessible ways to help shift the conversation and break through the overwhelming ableism that surrounded it.”

Sonalee R

Sonalee (she/they) is a social worker, sex therapist, public speaker, and community organizer. Their work as a sexual violence crisis counselor involves helping anyone who has experienced sexual trauma, issues with body image, racial and immigrant identity issues.

Sonalee’s positive attitude towards social media:

"Social media doesn't have to be a toxic place. We have the ability to curate our feeds to be places that nourish our growth and imagination of a better future."

'Social media doesn't have to be a toxic place.'
- Sonalee R, @thefatsextherapist
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Ericka Hart

Ericka (she/they) is a sex educator, a writer, and activist for racial, social, and gender justice. They regularly teach workshops and classes about sex, gender, and race at academic institutions both locally and around the country.

Ericka and their partner Ebony (he/him) also host a podcast called Hoodrat to Headwrap, which takes a deeper dive into some of the topics they cover on Ericka’s Instagram.

Ericka’s dualistic perspective on social media:

Social media is my escape from the world and where I can be plugged in. It’s where I can take up space and also be seen through similar views and imagery. It’s where I can teach and also learn from someone else.”

Zoë Ligon

Zoë’s (she/her) Instagram is an honest portrayal of her life as a sex educator and owner of the online sex-positive toy store called Spectrum Boutique. Her stories feature Q&As from time to time, where she addresses every kind of question as it has to do with sex, relationships, and self-love.

How social media has helped Zoë:

“Social media has allowed me to connect with people over vulnerable subjects, which makes me feel not so alone in the world. I talk about everything from my anxiety and mental health issues to herpes, and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Yes, there are trolls, but after years of posting online I have found a way to only absorb the love people express when we connect over our mutual experiences.”

'Social media has allowed me to connect with people over vulnerable subjects, which makes me feel not so alone in the world.'
- Zoë Ligon, @thongria
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Ilya Parker

Ilya (he/they) is a non-binary personal trainer who specializes in medical exercise, writer, and a physical therapist assistant. They run a business called Decolonizing Fitness, which works to make fitness accessible through education and support, for all types of bodies. Their Instagram showcases words of encouragement and inspiration as they relate to fitness, and celebrates the successes of those who are part of the Decolonizing Fitness community.

How Ilya uses social media as a platform for sharing positive and educational content:

“I’ve always said that Queer and Trans People of Color (especially those of us who carry multiple marginalized identities) are revolutionary because our survival in this world depends on it. We are often thrust in activism roles as we are simply sharing our day-to-day experience on social media...naming all the ways we literally have to fight for our humanity. Our creative content is a byproduct of our struggle. We get a platform to share our jewels with the world, and you get to become more consciously aware.”

'Our creative content is a byproduct of our struggle. We get a platform to share our jewels with the world, and you get to become more consciously aware.'
- Ilya Parker, @decolonizing_fitness
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Dalychia & Rafaella of Afrosexology

Afrosexology is the brainchild of Daylchia and Rafaella, whose mission is to educate, explore, and reclaim black sexuality. Through the development of curriculums, speaking engagements, and workshops, the two have been able to cultivate a community both online thanks to the help of social media and in real life.

Some of the organizations they’ve worked with include Planned Parenthood, Teen Pregnancy and Prevention Partnership, and aasect (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists).

Dalychia and Rafaella’s realistic and honest approach to social media:

"When it comes to openly talking about pleasurable sex, too many of us don't have a community that we can lean on for affirming, insightful, and challenging conversations.

Online and in real life we work to create spaces where we don't position ourselves as the experts trying to tell you how to live a sexually liberated life. Instead we pose questions, activities, and information that foster conversations and leaves room for all of us to be teachers and learners as we share vulnerable experiences, relevant information, and support one another on our sexual liberation journey."

Myisha Battle

Myisha (she/her) is a feminist sex and dating coach, who works to help people have more fulfilling and exciting sex lives. She is also the host of a sex positive podcast called Down for Whatever, which tells stories about real people and their sexual experiences. Her Instagram often provides small snippets of the work that she does on a day to day.

How Myisha uses social media to help spread sex positivity:

“I see social media as a way to infiltrate people's days with a jolt of sex positivity! I hope that my message that ‘We're all OK’ reaches people and allows them to accept themselves more fully as sexual beings.”

'I hope that my message that ‘We're all OK’ reaches people and allows them to accept themselves more fully as sexual beings.'
- Myisha Battle, @myishabattle
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Walela Nehanda

Walela (they/them) is a community organizer who is based in Los Angeles. Walela is part of a team of activists involved with a radical grassroots organization called Spit Justice, which works to advocate for social justice, education, and artistic expression.

Walela is also currently undergoing treatment for Leukemia, and uses social media to provide transparency about their journey with the illness and what it means to be healthy both physically, and mentally.

Walela’s intentional and thoughtful approach to social media:

“One of the things I try to do with social media is be intentional about the circles and communities I create on my accounts.

It is not about numbers but about WHO is following me: working class colonized peoples. I don’t aspire to have a blue check, or be sponsored by brands, or be put on, or have a ton of white followers nor do I center them and I think that’s really informed how my platform has developed and has become not only a resource for popular education but also a community in itself because it’s real.

The biggest thing I try to do with social media is spark the desire to take action and that action being rooted in both study and praxis. Hence, why I always center reading, history, elders, movements past, and tie them to current movements today and organizing.

It’s one thing to talk about these systems vaguely, it’s another to offer real avenues in which people can get involved on a grassroots level.”

'The biggest thing I try to do with social media is spark the desire to take action and that action being rooted in both study and praxis.'
-Walela Nehanda, @itswalela
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Read next: How Social Media Can Boost Your Confidence

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In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Listen to a meditation voiced by activist Rachel Cargle to hone and celebrate the power of radical listening.