In 2017, it feels as though it would be easy to dismiss Instagram as simply a haven of self-educated fitness gurus, wellness bloggers, and teeny-tiny-waisted models. A place that can sometimes make you feel worse about yourself than you did when you woke up.
But if that is the case, as it was for me up until recently, you’re probably following the wrong accounts.
For every #flawless selfie and perfectly lit bikini shoot, there are countless body positive accounts encouraging women to diss unrealistic standards and get to a place of loving themselves when they look in the mirror. Which is exactly where the Instagram account of 24-year-old Sydney-based artist Christine Yahya, @pink_bits comes in.
“Initially when I started I wasn’t consciously drawing to start a page or that kind of thing. To be honest, one night I was drawing and drawing from my own photos to see my shapes on a page and on a whim I was like, ‘okay, I think I’d like these to have their own space’ and just made a dedicated Instagram for it,” Yahya tells Mamamia.
“And at the time people seemed to feel the same sense of empowerment from it that I did.”
Empowering is just one word to describe the illustrations that grace the account. Complex, beautiful, realistic and inclusive are others that fit Yahya’s carefully curated spectrum.
Different shapes, sizes, colours, body hair, disabilities and health conditions are all included in Yahya’s artwork – as are everyday activities that are known to women like using tampons, masturbating and taking a bath.
Every woman in every illustration is clearly at one within their skin and radiating a sense of empowerment. And importantly, they all meet the social media platform’s nudity guidelines.
Through this point of view, Yahya has amassed a following of over 21,000 people since creating the page in October 2016, something she says she never expected.
“The first couple of months it hit a couple of hundred followers, and even that was shocking and surprising to me. But maybe in the past six months, I’ve really recognised there are a lot of people viewing this and a lot of people loving this. It’s amazing and really touching and humbling; it’s overwhelming in the best way possible,” Yahya says.
Listen: Not everyone is positive about their body, even if they want to be. The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.
Another outcome Yahya says she never expected from creating the account was the outpouring of feedback she would come to receive.
“I’ve received so many messages; the comments and the amount of personal messages I get from people really cemented it for me. I’ve gotten a lot of messages from women and men and they’ve been really touching. That’s been more than x amount of likes or so and so resharing it.”
When I ask Yahya about the disappointment some people talk about when it comes to the social media platform, her outlook is completely different, not least because of the followers she’s been lucky enough to surround herself with.
“One thing I really like about uploading the Instagram, there is that sense of community, and there’s a huge body positive community that’s an incredible thing to be a part of,” Yahya says, a statement that ties into Instagram’s recent additions of comment moderation tools, suicide and self-injury tools and sensitive content screens that also aim to further improve user experiences.
“I do recognise that social media, in general, can have that highly curated, polished, unrealistic expectations vibe, which makes me enjoy uploading there all the more because I feel like it’s extra empowering in a way to put these illustrations in a space that can often make people feel like they should look a particular way.”
As I said before, if your feed is making you feel bad, you’re just not following the right people. Time for a refresh, I reckon.