From Consumer to Change-Maker: My Introduction to Media Literacy and Campus Activism
By Erika Esprio--The world is always trying to tell you who to be. You're too fat. You're too skinny. You're not skinny enough. You're too short. You're far too tall. We're constantly fed that we're not good enough through social media, peers and society in general. It's enough to make those with the strongest self-confidence start to doubt themselves.
Here's my journey.
I'm a senior in high school and I was told to choose a project to work on throughout the whole school year. We were allowed to pick any topic, so I chose the negative effects of media on body image. This topic was really important (and relevant, I think) because just like any other teenager, I've dealt with questioning myself and my self-esteem. Scrolling through my Instagram feed makes me take a long hard look in the mirror and wonder why I'm not thinner. Or why, overall, I seem to not be enough.
According to society (well to my English teacher, friends and family), I’m considered “mainstream,” but I consider myself to be someone who has body flaws. I have tried many things in order to be accepted by society. I want to be able to sit down without feeling insecure about my thighs and stomach rolls. I want to be able to feel comfortable in a bathing suit. And I just want to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin.
By trying to achieve that “want,” I tried dieting, cutting down on the sugary drinks and exercising, but nothing seemed to work for me. I tried these methods because I wanted to feel good enough, pretty enough and skinny enough in order to fit a media ideal. But then I knew that trying to be someone I’m not, because the media “said so,” is wrong. I wanted to inform not only others, but also myself, on how the media affects us in negative ways that can have lasting effects.
In order to get the ball rolling, I decided to seek out a mentor who could give me more information on this topic. I chose Professor Bobbie Eisenstock from California State University, Northridge, who specializes in teaching about gender issues and how the media influence men and women. I wrote to her, sat in on a few of her lectures and immersed myself in the campus' National Eating Disorders Awareness Week activities.
I even participated in the Proud2Bme On Campus: CSUN project. I really enjoyed working with this group because it helped me to spread the word about why you should love being exactly who you are!
During NEDAwareness Week, I helped the organization with its campus event. I was in charge of the "Digital Footprint" activity. This activity consisted of people thinking about body positivity and what they were most proud to have displayed on their social media. Then they wrote it on a post-it and placed it on a giant poster board of a digital footprint. (The activity is available in the Get REAL! Digital Media Toolkit the group created for the NEDA and Proud2Bme websites).
This was a new experience for me and it made me feel good about showing the students the beauty in themselves. I am so fortunate to have been involved with this amazing organization. This fall I will start my freshman year at DePaul University in Chicago and I hope to bring Proud2Bme to that campus.
Editor’s note: Want to create change on your campus? Learn more about NEDA’s national initiative to bring students, faculty and campus services together in the fight against eating disorders.