This summer saw the online world pledge a multitude of things. To be more mindful with our time now that we know it to be a luxury to have such freedom over it. To support Black-owned businesses. To be actively anti-racist in all areas of our lives. And, alongside all of that, a step as ‘simple’ as diversifying our feeds. An initiative originally started as a hashtag by the wonderful Zeena (@heartzeena), it sought to help ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups be seen online.
We all know that the Instagram (and Twitter, and Facebook, and TikTok) algorithm is set up to help you find or see content that is similar to the ones you’ve previously engaged with. But what does this mean for already underrepresented content creators and groups? In short, not great things. In fact, when you double-tap to support a post, you’re alerting the algorithm to show you more of it, and as such, those already underrepresented have their chances of content being seen slashed. Hashtags like Zeena’s #diversifyyourfeed help us all to find more creators and users that the algorithm may stop us from seeing.
As a minority myself that struggles to see people that look like me in British and Western media, I’d already taken it upon myself to actively seek out a bigger range of creators. From fellow British-born Chinese creators to more Black influencers, and from plus-size and midsize style inspo accounts to those from older age ranges, I think it’s incredibly important to make sure that you’re exposing yourself to content and the valued words and opinions from people of all walks of life. Social media can easily become a bit of an echo chamber, with similar trends circling around and ‘relatable’ captions that make it difficult to distinguish between creators. So, change it up. I’ve curated a news feed that I enjoy scrolling through, because each person I follow brings something new and unique to the table.
@nicoleocran shares inspiring, colourful and original size 16 fashion, against a backdrop of important social issues and sharing her experiences as a biracial woman. @elliekblog is a medicine student studying in China and her posts are full of great study tips, diary entries from her time abroad, and candid stories of life as a Black woman. @diamondcanopy is the big sister I never had, and she shares the most gorgeous photos of Hong Kong, her adorable illustrations, and of life as a British-born Chinese in the UK. @heartzeena has the most colourful feed, flooded with positivity and brimming with style and interiors inspiration. @rcagz documents her life working in publishing and of being a feminist activist. @wildberriesandfables shares inspiring everyday stories from her little family, as well as delicious vegan recipes and her voice as a Desi Bengali feminist. @chaptersofmay captures the cosiest bookish photos and writes incredible book reviews. @franciscarockey is a Black geographer, and her Tweets in particular always leave me learning more and wanting to learn even more. @stylesuzi is flying the flag for us British-born Chinese, and her makeup videos have quadrupled my self-confidence over the years.
On a more serious level, it’s especially important to be seeing several ethnicities and races on your feed because it helps, on subtle levels, to normalise it. I know: many of you are silently saying, ‘I see lots of races every day!’ But as someone that regularly hears ‘you’re the only Chinese person I know’ or ‘you’re the only… Asian person I’ve seen here’, I think it’s safe to assume that we have a long way to go. It’s not enough to generalise me (or any other person) as Asian. It’s not enough to mention you once had a Korean friend. It’s certainly not a compliment to know I’m the token Chinese or East Asian person that ‘you’ve seen’. This isn’t a zoo, although it may feel like one at times.
It’s 2020, and we should have made huge strides by now.
Fellow blogger and a wonderful friend of mine, Ria, agrees: “As an East Asian woman, I feel like I’ve been continuously frustrated at the lack of diversity for my own ethnicity for years. So it only feels natural that I’ve always sought out spaces not only to find voices like my own, but voices from all sorts of different backgrounds, ethnicities, abilities, and sexualities. The world holds so many different stories, why wouldn’t you want to seek as many different voices as possible?
I also think it’s important to remember that the algorithm and feeds won’t do this for you. Diversifying my social media feed comes down to being proactive about seeking what your feed is lacking. So work out where your blind spots are and go from there.”
Having a diverse feed is a great way to start democratising representation. As a kid, I watched a lot of TVB (the main broadcasting channel from Hong Kong) because my parents wanted me to hear and read Chinese. But it was also great in that I could watch entire programmes where Chinese people were the main characters. I think we can all agree that kids’ and mainstream TV shows in the ‘90s had very few Asian characters. Seeking out and following diverse people on social media is my nod to that. Whilst my real life is diverse (both friends and, to an extent, those around me), supporting creators of all races and all ages is important to me, otherwise we unwittingly pave the way for an echo chamber in the future. Social media and user-generated content is the future, there’s no doubt about it.
What steps have you taken — or will be taking — to diversify your feeds?