Between borrowed identities and online self-fashioning: A case for content diversity

girl with phone

I have been thinking for some time now about spurts of irrational anger that erupt in social media against young girls* every now and then. The target varies from teenagers who like Twilight to poets like Rupi Kaur: the common attack is of deriding the content that this fan base admires and endorses, and by extension, the fans themselves. While it is debatable whether Twilight or Rupi Kaur are ideal role models for young girls*, there is a case to be made for the protection of the content that speaks to them. Growing up in India, the artists and influencers I followed the most online were all cis white women. There were several reasons for this: they enjoyed greater visibility, ease of sharing content, less restrictions and censorship, algorithms that played in their favor etc. Later, when I started following more relatable handles – specifically non-binary PoCs –, the content I received from them was noticeably riddled with a lot more violent feedback, frequent censorship by the social media platforms, shadowbanning, and, in some cases, entire profiles were taken down. And these were content-creators who had managed to carve a space for themselves online and build a public profile which is in itself a feat. The echo-chamber that normative content creates has several offline ramifications: it determines the range of options people think they can choose from when they go about fashioning their on/offline identities, it influences the curricula of cultural studies and media classrooms, and, worst of all, it carries with it the implication that while the internet has room for all content, some content enjoys more protection than other content. This connects to a larger problem where commercial platforms often steal from smaller, marginalized content-creators without endorsements or payments. In short, the average social media user is consuming a flat version of content without ever being aware of the ‘minor’ emotional and intellectual labor that this normative discourse is built on.

This article was first published (12th November 2019) online via and is part of the publication "Critical Voices, Visions and Vectors for Internet Governance".