Digital Self-Care Vs. Self-Care in the Digital Age: An Exploration of Black Women’s Social Media Use
“By design, it [social media] was supposed to be about connection, but it has ended up being about destruction…re-exposing yourself to the hindrances that you were trying to heal from.”-interviewee from the project
Throughout my time in the Design Lab, I have embarked upon a journey—a continuation of my quest to better understand various online community spaces and the potential connection between social media and healing. Specifically, I have been interested in how social media impacts Black women’s mental health and well-being, and thus, are Black women potentially curating self-definitions, online, through cultivating healing, affirming, and authentic social media spaces?
As an undergraduate student at U of M, I was interested in investigating whether or not social media fosters Black women’s curation of their own self-definitions in ways that counter hegemonic narratives and stereotypes about Black womanhood. Specifically, I examined Black women’s participation within digital communities such as the “Blackosphere” through hashtag activism (e.g., #carefreeblackgirl, #blackgirlmagic, and #blackgirlsrock), the role that social media may play in Black women’s identity constructions, and the overall mental health implications.
In its early stages, I set incredibly lofty goals for my Psychology honors thesis project. To me, it symbolized the culmination of an emotional, growth-filled, and beautifully complex undergraduate career. But, most importantly, it has become interwoven into my graduate student experience as an academic foray into discovering Black women’s cultivation and preservation of their own selves through a recognition of their liminal existence(s) to one another. This work is purposeful, intentional, and meaningful. In recognizing its significance and understanding my own investment and accountability to the work--and Black women’s experiences--I was led to hone some of my skills (and learn so many new skills!) in the Shapiro Design Lab.
The Design Lab has been a radically revolutionary space that has continued to foster my personal, professional, and academic development. The lab operates within a digital justice framework, and thus, I have been able to further develop my knowledge of digital media, as well as expand upon my project with a community of supportive and engaged interdisciplinary scholars. Specifically, my Design Lab project has been focused on examining what digital self-care is and exploring the possibilities of what it can be. As a Design Lab resident, I have been conducting informal, preliminary interviews with Black women to better conceptualize this construct and understand the role that digital self-care plays in the lives of Black women. Instead of limiting self-care definitions to removing and/or restricting social media involvement, I’m examining Black women’s intentional engagement in particular types of technology to see if social/digital media can foster self-care behaviors. Through my project and the plethora of resources offered to me as a Design Lab resident, I’m hoping to better understand how Black women come into using hashtags and digital media platforms, as well as tease apart the distinctions between “Digital Self-Care” and “Self-Care in the Digital Age.”
Throughout the course of the academic year, my project has been wonderfully supported through our weekly Design Lab co-working and co-learning sessions. Thus, I’m looking forward to continuing to connect with my fellow residents and wrap-up my work as a 2016-2017 Shapiro Design Lab resident!