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I’m too young to vote, but I’m still stoked for Britain’s General Election

by Georgia Luckhurst

It’s funny, but until about two months ago, I really couldn’t have cared less about British politics. In the UK, where a historically two-party system forms our political culture, the political scene appeared tired to me: overwhelmingly dominated by middle-aged white men who didn’t really seem particularly interested in the lives of anyone who hadn’t received the same educational or financial privileges as they had. (Also, a reminder: the UK still has an unelected legislative chamber, the House of Lords, which includes people who inherited their power because of family legacy and titles. We also still have a monarch. So you’ll understand why so-called British “democracy” maybe didn’t excite me and many other teenagers as much as it could do.)

Today though, the British electorate will be voting in what could be the most exciting election in British history. I say that because nobody knows what is going to happen. What was once a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives has turned into an opportunity for parties like the Greens, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Nationalist Party), the Scottish Nationalist Party, and the UK Independence Party to grab a significant portion of the vote. For once, the ruling political mores are being challenged – and the mood in Britain is fiery, to say the least.

With everything to play for, parties are making more of a conscious effort to reach out to those they had maybe traditionally ignored. In the last election here in 2010, only 33% of women eligible to vote cast a ballot. Another recent study shows that huge percentages of the ethnic minority population in Britain aren’t registered to vote. Disenchantment and disappointment have characterized the public’s feelings about politicians, particularly when the majority of us aren’t middle-aged white men who went to Eton. Major parties – realizing they can’t just count on traditional partisan allegiance – are being forced to pay attention, issuing separate manifestos for women and paying careful attention to social issues like LGBTQ+ rights in the UK.

The wage-gap in Britain is the sixth worst in the European Union. For so long, this has been considered a done-and-dusted issue: people, by which I mean men, seem to think that was all sorted a long time ago (“They fixed that stuff! Have you seen ‘Made In Dagenham’?”) Moreover, only 23% of MPs in the UK are women. It’s been inspiring to see three major female political leaders fighting in this election – Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, Natalie Bennett of the Green Party, and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru - but it’s high-time parties recognized gender imbalance in the UK.

Furthermore, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in the UK. In order to tackle violence against women and girls, Labour has promised to establish a commission to enforce national standards to prevent domestic and sexual violence taking place, while the Conservatives have announced plans to tackle what has been a very publicized issue in Britain in recent years, female genital mutilaation. My favourite policies come courtesy of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens: the Lib Dems wanting to create a national sex education curriculum that actually teaches young people what consent is and why it matters (shout-out TYFA’s Campaign 4 Consent!), and the Greens pledging to make it illegal for members of the public to attempt to prevent breastfeeding in public.

Social issues which young people have been talking about for a while now are also finally getting a look in, with parties like Labour promising the introduction of LGBTQ+ inclusive sex-and-personal education, and the Liberal Democrats pledging to fight for universal same-sex marriage rights across the world. The Greens swear to include diversity and equality classes in school to tackle bullying and encourage acceptance. UKIP meanwhile, who stylize themselves as the people’s party, truly live up to their definition: they really do care about people–it’s just that they only care when the people are white, Anglo-Saxon, straight, male people, as evidenced by their thoughts on gay conversion therapy in the UK, saying they wouldn’t ban it outright because people may “request” to be converted and UKIP ”believe in individual conscience and the right of people to make their own choices”.

Personally, I’m most excited by the Liberal Democrats decision to put the topic of mental health at the top of their manifesto priorities. I’m very fortunate to live in a country with universal, free-on-delivery healthcare, but for so long British society has neglected the necessity to define mental health as what it really is: an aspect of one’s self that is as vital to our experience of life as our physical wellbeing. As Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said, “It is wrong that relatives and friends needing a hip operation can expect treatment within a clear timeframe but someone with a debilitating mental health condition has no clarity about when they will get help. I want this to be a country where a young dad chatting at school gates will feel as comfortable discussing anxiety, stress, depression, as the mum who is explaining she sprained her ankle.” Pledging £120m to go towards mental health care improvement, Clegg concluded: “Anxiety panic attacks, depression, anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, bipolar disorder… mental health conditions are one of the last remaining taboos in our society, and yet they will affect one in four people.”

Overall, I’m pretty pumped about the result – no matter what the outcome, I’m just excited about what 2015 has done to shake up British political culture. (I mean, bar the nightmare result of a UKIP majority, obviously – I’m not entirely sure Nigel Farage is a real man, and not just a figment of my imagination that collated of all the most-loathed bigots I’ve encountered in my life into one, racist, super-misogynist.) I may be too young to vote myself, but finally parties are amplifying issues that matter to me and so many others. Bring on the 7th May!

“I was writing books I wish I had when I was in high school”: an interview with author Sara Farizan

by Montgomery Jones

Every month, the  SPARK Action Squad reads and discusses a book together as part of our monthly #SPARKreads book club. Last month, we read If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, a page turner of a novel about an Iranian high school girl, Sahar, who is in love with her best friend, Nasrin.  The two girls must deal with the complications of young love while having to keep it completely under wraps: religiously and culturally, being gay is seen as “immoral,” so both girls must think of their futures. Thank you so much to Ms. Farizan for answering my questions and giving us an added perspective about her complex characters.

I absolutely loved If You Could Be Mine!  I could not put it down. Was it a tedious process to write IYCBM?  Did the characters come to life, so to speak?

Writing can be a pretty lonely pursuit so it’s nice when the characters you create remind you of people you’ve met, or are people you’d want to meet and get to know. I started the story really with just that first scene between Sahar and Nasrin and I thought about the kind of points I wanted to make throughout the story and what characters would make those points come across.

Did you always know what you wanted to write about?

If You Could Be Mine really started from a writing exercise in my graduate school. A lot of my writing had been about intersecting identities and for a long time I was really focused on what it meant to be both Persian and a lesbian. I always write to make myself feel better and this story was really a way to channel issues of identity that I had been struggling with in my adolescence. I was writing books I wish I had when I was in high school.

I read on your author bio that your parents are from Iran, have you lived there as well?  Did your parents give you a lot of visuals so you could write about it so descriptively?

When I started writing the story it was going to be my thesis in graduate school. I knew I was lacking in a lot of description, so I decided to visit Tehran. I hadn’t been since I was a teenager so it was very helpful to go back and observe day- to-day life.

Does Nasrin love Sahar as much as Sahar loves her?  It certainly felt one sided much of the time but perhaps that was just Nasrin’s personality?

Nasrin is Sahar’s entire world, which is a little unfair because Sahar’s world has been pretty small. Sahar cares deeply for Nasrin, but Nasrin has a lot on her plate and is more realistic in comparison to Sahar. They’re both very young and naïve about their respective situations, but Nasrin is sort of under the impression that Sahar will always be there, that they can continue their romance. Nasrin doesn’t quite realize what her life is going to be like without Sahar in it. Nasrin is a character most readers don’t like very much, but she’s actually the character I have the most sympathy for.

Ali is quite the sneaky one, if you were to write about him in Turkey (with Daughter I believe?) what would he be up to?

In his letters back to Sahar he seems well enough, but when people seek asylum/are refugees in another country, they face a lot of adversity. I’d like to think he and Nastaran are finding work and doing the best they can while they wait for asylum status. If you’re interested in how to help out those seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, you can check out:

SPARK is all about intersectionality, and If You Could Be Mine is just about the most intersectional YA book I have ever read!  Was it difficult to find a publisher seeing as though it’s not about a straight, white, American girl?

I really never thought that this book would get published. It was my mentor in graduate school who put me in touch with my editor. She was gracious enough to read my work. She read it and I thought she would give me a pat on the back and tell me good luck, but she was in the process of launching a new imprint, Algonquin Young Readers, and wanted to acquire If You Could Be Mine. So it was a lot of hard work in writing the story, but it was also a lot of right place/ right time/luck that played into it being published.

With the We Need Diverse Books movement and not only readers but authors calling for more diverse content, do you think the market of young adult and children’s books will change?  Be more accepting?

I think people have taken notice and I think the movement will continue to grow. What needs to be done in order to make sure more diverse books come out is that readers have to buy and ask their libraries/book stores for books by diverse authors and books about diverse characters. Ultimately publishing is a business, and the public has to unfortunately vote with their dollars. When this happens, and there is a demand for books about diverse people, then there are opportunities for other emerging writers, stories we haven’t seen before, and more voices that represent more people.

What has the feedback been like for you? 

I have said from the beginning that if my books could help one person/one family then that is all I wanted. I was most struck by woman who was maybe in her fifties and came to an event I was doing in Western Massachusetts. She was a Persian mom and we greeted each other in Farsi. She said she came to the event to get her daughter’s book signed because her daughter couldn’t make it but really wanted to come. I was almost moved to tears because for the longest time, when I was younger, I didn’t think I could be open with my parents because of their culture and here was a mother, close to my own mother’s age, there on behalf of her daughter.

Many of our readers not used to reading about people like them, whether they are LBTQIA, a person of color, physically disabled, anything besides Christian, have a different body type, etc.  Do you have any advice by ways of creating the story you wish to read?  Do you follow the “write what you know” advice?

I think you can write emotions that you know. You have to write a story that you’re really passionate about, that you have to let out of you. I think when you are trying to write a character that is not like you, in terms of identity, there can be a lot of anxiety that comes with that. But then you have to get to know people, listen, do your research, branch out of your comfort zone and not make assumptions about any group of people just from one experience or one interaction. The problematic things and the stereotypes come from staying in your comfort zone and not getting to know the world around you.

Do you have anymore stories in the works?

My second book, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel, is out in stores and is a lot lighter in tone than If You Could Be Mine but deals with similar subject matter. I am writing something now that’s pretty different from what I’ve written about so far, but it is coming along very slowly.


Thank you so so much to Sara for this great #SPARKreads interview! In May we’ll be reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. You can join the Action Squad to participate, or just read the book on your own time and share your thoughts and insights with #SPARKreads on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. And don’t forget to follow us on!

Guest blog: Speaking out is hard, but we have to do it

by Sara Gibbons

Recently, three high school girls in South Portland, Maine spoke out about their right to not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the backlash was truly astonishing. Online trolls commented on their story calling the girls “ingrates,” “witches,” and “attention whores.” If you spend any time on the Internet you’re I’m sure well aware of the vitriol online targeting toward girls and women, and the lack of secure spaces for activists and bloggers – especially those coming from a distinctly feminist perspective. With incidents like this one in Portland, it becomes especially clear that blogs, and the Internet in general, is not safe for female voices.

It’s painful to hear reports that some of the most exciting feminists I love are writing less or even retiring entirely (!) because of the “toxic stew” of written, emotional, and physical threats they receive. Woman and girls genuinely fear for their personal, career, familial, and physical safety, which is so discouraging and quite literally halting feminist efforts.

But trust me, I get it. Who wouldn’t experience hesitation in the face of such backlash and judgment? As a long time fan but relatively new blogger, I have frequently found myself hesitant to pursue some of my blog ideas for fear of what might happen if I do. It’s intimidating enough to put your voice out there, but to know that your ideas will probably be met with backlash and criticism – now that’s really scary. In fact, it’s a real tragedy! For all bloggers, but especially for young feminists looking online for a safe place to voice their concerns.

Michelle Goldberg of the Washington Post wrote an article that unfortunately only supports these findings. She speaks of the contradiction of the digital age — how social media and technology have provided the space to amplify feminist voices while simultaneously magnifying the criticizing and shaming of those women who share their stories. She notes that with increased technology, comments can be especially harmful and damaging because your personal information is so much more accessible, which, I can definitely attest to, only make the threats more real and scary.

However disheartening, I found some real inspiration and motivation in the words of anthropologist Robin Nelson of Skidmore College. She speaks about how bloggers have to keep going, even in the face of this very real danger. In an article for Cosmos and Culture she says, “I tweet while knowing well that this is probably just the beginning of the cost I will pay for living my identity and politics publicly. I am far from alone in this, as many black feminists…have to constantly work to both preserve their privacy, their safety, and not have their words used without permission. This being said, we are far better off for having had the opportunity to hear all of these voices in conversation. Thus, I will continue to take the risk.”

Nelson speaks about risk, but she also speaks about responsibility and reward. This responsibility and reward part are really important. Seasoned and especially new bloggers like me can’t give up – we have to continue to be brave and take the risk so that our individual collective voices can be heard and hopefully listened to. As bloggers, it is our responsibility to persevere so that we can continue to spread important ideas, spark debate, discuss opinions, and raise awareness on the many great and important feminist issues. Maybe even more excitingly are the rewards! As I continue to blog, I’m excited about becoming apart of the supportive communities that challenge and inspire new bloggers like me.

But don’t worry, for those of us still working up to blogging freely, there are ways that you can be involved without putting your whole self out there. Try blogging under a pseudonym or check out blogs similar to SPARK, like The FBomb and Powered by Girl (PBG), where the comments are moderated. And there are even organizations working to stop this harassment altogether. Organizations like WAM (Women, Action, & the Media) have teamed up with Twitter to investigate how women can better report online harassment and how to more effectively respond to it.

Whatever path you choose, remember that we all need to speak our truths! Continuing to have our opinions heard will be hard, and sometimes hurt, but it is imperative we continue our work, because let’s face it, it’s important. It’s necessary that we continue to write and fight so that one-day, hopefully soon, we can all live authentically and without fear.

Sara Gibbons is an Education student at Colby College. 

The Sisterhood of Night, like teen girls’ lives, is complex and complicated

by Georgia Luckhurst, Montgomery Jones, Dee Putri, and Elisabed Gedevanishvili

When a teenage girl says she’s the victim of a secret network called The Sisterhood of Night, a quiet suburban town becomes the backdrop for a modern-day Salem witch trial.

Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser, “The Sisterhood of Night” follows a group of high school girls whose secret society – led by the charismatic Mary Warren, the creative Catherine Huang, and the shy Lavinia Hall – attracts unexpected national attention after accusations of the group committing sexual abuse are published on a fellow student, Emily Parris’, blog.

The film intends to raise some very valid questions about how society polices young girls’ sexuality and friendship, as well as the influence the internet has on today’s adolescents and the degree to which it dictates how we live our lives as well as creating fantasies that impede on our reality. How successfully did “The Sisterhood of Night” deliver? Montgomery, Georgia, Dee, and Elisabed discuss.

GEORGIA: What I liked about the film was that it represented close friendship between girls in a way that I hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before. In particular Mary and Catherine’s relationship resembled my own with my three best friends. I also loved how the film tried to address the way in which our society polices girls’ friendships, and how it sexualizes those bonds in order to create rifts and remind girls that their thoughts, feelings, and ways of being are public property. That issue could definitely have been explored more – it’s not a conversation that’s easy to have in an hour and a half’s worth of movie! – and I wish the film had made more of an argument for the extent to which teenage girls have a right to privacy and self-expression. We’re so often ridiculed by society’s lack of respect, for, for example, pastimes like diary writing or blogging, and I’d like to have seen that explored instead of some of the side plots, like an alleged teacher-student relationship that proves untrue.

I think what’s clear about “The Sisterhood of Night” is that it was made with such great feminist intentions which don’t normally come into big movie productions, but it can’t be said to have entirely pulled off all the goals it set out to achieve. Overall I can say I really did enjoy the film, and I will encourage my friends to see it, but it’s the sort of movie that requires a lot of deconstruction after having seen it just to mull over all the different plot lines and questions it’s trying to raise.

MONTGOMERY:  I actually enjoyed the added storyline of the sexualization of the relationship between the counselor and Mary. I wish the film had somehow expanded on that in some way.  It raised the question, is it possible for the a young woman and a grown man to have a completely platonic relationship without assumptions being made?  Or were the circumstances too representational of anything but?  Then there was the question of guilt.  Are those accused, convicted by the public if enough people point the finger? Does innocent until proven guilty still apply?

Overall though, I thought it played out like an overcomplicated Lifetime movie.  The film would have done well to let many of the moments speak for themselves, but instead it felt like it was underestimating the viewer’s understanding.  There were singular powerful moments that would have done well with little explanation, scenes that could have artfully represented the insatiable appetite the media has for a hyperbolic story but the issue was, those moments were clouded by this monster of a plot that didn’t fit. Sometimes simplicity is the way to go. So much can be said about a group of girls just hanging out and getting all the preconceived notions tacked on to them. But the weird group that attacked Lavinia, the blog, the press, the counselor, all of it together was a lot to handle.

DEE: I quite liked the movie–I can relate how life is so confusing at that age. There are so many pressures from parents and friends. The Sisterhood is about girls who share their deepest secrets and believe that the other sisterhood members would keep it as secret–I think it is such a relief when we can say what we really want to say without being judged. I mean, teenagers tend to say those things on social media, which often lead to be judged by others. Did you read early Rookie stuff? I thought the film had a very Rookie vibe: the clothes, the sisterhood, the DIY.

Also, I think I can try to explain Lavinia. I mean, my point of view. I think that Lavinia is a shy girl, who Mary thought that needed the Sisterhood. She has her own issues, like, her mom always has a different boyfriend, and she feels that she’s not normal because she doesn’t have her dad around. My parents are divorced, so I can relate to that. Being 16-17 years old is the most confusing time–we’re teenagers and we have so much angst! We try to figure things out. And when Lavinia fell in love with a boy, it was confusing for her:  she didn’t think that the boy would like her back, but it seems easy for her mom to find boyfriend(s).  Also, there are some gap between Lavinia and her mom. They’re not that close and  Lavinia has to try to figure things out all by herself. But then, after the Halloween, she just can’t take it anymore. It was just too much pressure.

ELI: I thought the movie had a great message for the viewers. I, myself, as a thirteen year old used to be in a similar sisterhood. The only exception was that no one ever accused us of anything… maybe because I was in a totally different country? Maybe, if I were in the United States, instead of Georgia, my friends and I would be exposed to same things that Mary, Lavinia, and Catherine were? Might our whisperings and our secret diaries have been the subject of multiple concerned parents and a school investigation? I doubt it. That’s why I keep thinking that the portrayal of the problem that everyone else already mentioned was a bit exaggerated.

There were so many issues that kept on popping up throughout the film; they could have been movies on their own. The contributors most likely wanted to utilize different aspects, such as Emily’s blog, to deliver the main message; but, all these little parts of the film had huge issues buried in them. Issues that definitely could bring together actors, writers, producers and directors for several potential films.

I thought the film did a good job at bringing together girls from different backgrounds, most of whom were very relatable. To me the most identifiable was Catherine, whose mom suffered from cancer treatment. It was interesting to see how Catherine dealt with her situation.  One thing I didn’t appreciate about the movie was the inclusion of religion. Some may argue that religion is a big part of American life, but it didn’t add any meaning to the plot; quite the contrary, I felt like the film unintentionally stereotyped religiousness  as villainous.

I would recommend watching Sisterhood of the Night to those who enjoy suspense and unexpected plot twists. Although, after watching the movie I do not support Emily’s doings, at first I found myself believing in all the wrong things. I was amazed how the film put me on the spot. It definitely convinced me that everyone, even the most skeptical viewers can be persuaded that a lie is the truth!

The Sisterhood of Night is playing now in select theaters  and is available everywhere on iTunes. 

SPARK Artists: Daniela Groza wants you to be kind for real

by Brenda Guesnet

Daniela Groza is a Romanian artist based in New York City working mainly as a documentary photographer. She recently got in touch with SPARK for her newest project Be Kind For Real (BKFR), which is all about practicing kindness through art. The project was exhibited in the Emmanuel Fremin gallery in NYC but is ongoing–Daniela has designed t-shirts that she sells. In keeping with the theme of the project, Daniela decided to donate the proceeds of the project to grassroots organizations she believes in. We were thrilled to learn that we are one of them, and wanted to know more about the project and the motivation behind it.

According to the website of Be Kind For Real, BKFR cares for Art, Feminism, Beauty, Freedom and Kindness for the self, because they are paramount to the enjoyment of life. Daniela says the idea for BKFR came to her when she was experiencing a difficult episode in her life that made her reflect on what she was doing in life, and even what the purpose of life should be. She then encountered kindness not just as a moral imperative, but as an entire way of living.

How to translate this into an art piece? At first, the project was limited to the gallery space, where Daniela exhibited a text-based piece enclosed in a circle on the wall. But this left her unsatisfied: “Right after the show there was this strange, intense feeling of unrest, as in I just gave birth to a kindness-related project, but what ELSE can I do with it?” she says. She goes on to explain: “Since I’ve been working in the fashion industry for a few years now, and clothes, especially here in New York, make strong durable statements, . . . the first art object that came to mind, meant to bring maximum visibility to sharing as a practice, was t-shirts.” So Daniela made sixteen different designs – which you can see in the illustration – that she is now shipping to people all over the world. By splitting half of all proceeds with activist organizations, Daniela’s belief in “generosity to an extreme” finally found an incarnation.

I was intrigued to know what the words on the t-shirts mean, but according to Daniela a proper answer to this question would run the length of a novel. She did tell me that “every word is meant to capture the essence of our experience in the world, so I wanted to stay away from overly used words that advertising pushes on us. I wanted to keep the project simple and strong: we’ve forgotten the meaning of words, and so it’s hard to imagine a true, authentic life nowadays what with all the diluted jargon of advertising taking power away from language”.

It can be pretty hard to pursue radical politics and reject commodification in a city like New York (especially as an artist) but Daniela tries to remain on the grassroots level with her work, which she considers to be “most powerful, especially when it starts with the younger generation”. She goes on: “I think size, in general, tends to override the idea of personal relations… Anything done on a large scale standardizes and de-personalizes, and I think in today’s society impersonality is a plague”. That’s why she made the decision to promote the project only via ‘democratic’ social media, and to donate to organizations that she feels a personal bond with.

Daniela explains that she decided to help SPARK with Be Kind For Real because kindness and feminism are closely related, especially since she feels that with both it’s crucial to practice what you preach: “let’s face it”, she says, “on the surface we all believe in equality but once we are confronted with every day reality, few of those truly act toward and for it.” We’re thrilled to have caught Daniela’s interest as an organization that actively works towards empowering girls and women, and like her, we want to continue Being Kind For Real.

Research Blog: It’s written all over your Facebook

by Christin Bowman

Confession: Facebook is a big part of my life. I was actually one of the first people to sign up for an account in 2004, and I haven’t looked back since. For a long time, Facebook felt like a warm, cozy living room where my friends and family could meet and stay connected. I would eagerly upload pictures from my latest trip or adventure, caption them with something clever, and tag my loved ones. I would pore over the pictures my friends and family posted, and would obsessively inspect any pictures they tagged of me.

Slowly, though, I started to notice something was wrong. Very wrong. Facebook was making me a nervous wreck.

Rather than that warm and fuzzy feeling of community, I started feeling hurt and insecure. More often than not, looking at pictures of my friends doing things without me gave me intense FOMO. Why didn’t they invite me? Don’t they like me anymore? If I posted pictures of myself or my life, I was consumed with the number of likes and comments my pictures received. No one liked this picture – they must think I’m [insert terrible thing here]. I also noticed that I was a little too invested in how I looked in pictures, and how my friends looked in pictures. I would feel embarrassed if I thought I looked silly in a picture (Quick! Untag before anyone notices!), and I would feel jealous if I saw a picture of a friend or acquaintance looking amazing. At times it seemed that Facebook was doing more harm than good in my life.

All that obsessing over what I looked like on Facebook made me wonder: Do other people feel this way about Facebook? Is it possible that self-objectification plays a role in how rotten I felt.

Researchers Evelyn Meier and James Gray wondered the same thing. They conducted a study with adolescent girls[1] to find out whether there’s a relationship between spending a lot of time on Facebook doing appearance-focused things (like looking at pictures and posting pictures) and bad outcomes like weight dissatisfaction and self-objectification. The girls in the study filled out a survey about how often they use certain appearance-focused Facebook features (e.g. updating a profile picture, posting a photo, looking at friends’ photos, untagging yourself in friends’ photos), and they also filled out scales designed to measure weight dissatisfaction and self-objectification.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. The researchers found that the more often the girls reported using the appearance-focused Facebook features, the higher their weight dissatisfaction and the more they self-objectified. In other words, girls were more likely to feel bad about their weight and to look at themselves as objects if they spent more time on Facebook doing appearance-related stuff.

I don’t know about you, but all of this really rings true for me. I was feeling so bad about myself because of my obsession with Facebook pictures, but I also somehow felt addicted to it, and didn’t know what to do.

So about a year ago, I decided to try something: I stopped posting pictures of myself on Facebook. Let me tell you – it wasn’t easy. I had been so caught up in being my own worst critic and basing my self-worth on how other people responded to me. But I knew it had to stop. So one day, I just did it – I made myself quit posting pictures cold turkey. And do you know what happened?

I started to feel better.

Not right away, of course. At first it was like going through withdrawal. I craved the attention I had gotten from posting things. But slowly, day by day, week by week, it started to get easier. I stopped worrying so much about other people’s validation. If I was feeling good about myself for some reason, I didn’t have to worry that sharing that information on Facebook would somehow redefine that good feeling for me.

And I started noticing something else, too. Everyone around me suddenly seemed irrationally addicted to their phones and posting pictures on Facebook (side note: I think Instagram and Snapchat have burst on to the scene in a similar way). While having brunch with my friends, I would look around the table and notice people snapping pics of their food or of themselves and then posting them right away to Facebook or Instagram. It felt like everyone around me was more concerned with how their lives looked online, than how it felt to actually live them.

And what’s curious about that is it’s exactly what self-objectification is all about. Self-objectification happens when we think a lot about how we look to others – we actually look at ourselves from an outsider point of view – rather than focusing on how we feel on the inside. The authors of this study found that when we spend so much time on Facebook and focus on the way our lives look we objectify ourselves. After all, I had been so concerned with my appearance on Facebook that I started to forget how I actually felt.

Since quitting my picture posting, I’ve noticed a huge change in the way my life feels. I will often go entire meals with friends without even looking at my phone (CRAZY, I know). I don’t take selfies on the regular or broadcast my experiences. I’ll still take pictures of the things I do or the places I go, but now I’ll share those pictures with my friends and family via email or text. And I admit, since my initial boycott, I’ve posted a picture of myself on Facebook here and there too (even though I continue to get anxious about those pics I post).

But what is most exciting about this personal experiment is that I am so much more present during my life experiences than I used to be. Rather than making sure to get a good shot of my food or a flattering selfie with my friend, I use my mental energy to live those experiences in the moment. I admire my food, and then dig right in and let my mouth explode with the flavors. I look my friends in the eyes and laugh and love with them – no documentation required. And nowadays, instead of having to make sure those experiences are properly reflected on my Facebook page, I smile to myself remembering the fun I had, and then move on to the next adventure, trying my best to experience my way through.

[1] Meier, E. P., & Gray, J. (2014). Facebook photo activity associated with body image disturbance in adolescent girls. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking17(4), 199-206.