Teen Vogue — It’s no secret that seeing images of racist violence on social media can be damaging for Black people. Research has shown that for Black youth, witnessing traumatic events online can lead to an increase in depressive symptoms and symptoms of PTSD. And, Black people who view these images or videos can experience vicarious trauma, a phenomenon previously seen mostly in people like first responders, who witness others in extreme distress.
But, young people in a recent survey conducted by VSCO and JUV Consulting also recognized the role social media has in educating people and increasing allyship. 84% of Black respondents said they feel they have allies of other races online, and 64% of all respondents said they are learning how to help others on social media. More than that, 94% of respondents said social media makes them feel less alone. So, how do we balance the negative impact of seeing racist violence with the good that increased awareness and more connectivity has? By sharing more Black joy.
In the survey of more than 1,000 people ages 14 to 24, 76% of respondents said they regularly see images and videos of racial violence, and it hurts them emotionally. We can’t be silent about racism and police brutality, so posts about those issues are necessary, but as the young people in the survey pointed out, that’s not the whole picture. Of the Black survey respondents, 86% said they want to see their joy reflected more often on social media more often, calling it a way to show your full self.
“It means being able to be yourself and demand happiness from your life despite everything going on in the world,” Clara, 20, said in the survey.
For Kaliyah, 22, “[Black Joy means] allowing yourself to take a moment from grieving and mourning and experiencing generational trauma and stress, and taking a moment for yourself and relaxing and experiencing joy.”
VSCO launched its #BlackJoyMatters initiative in July as a way to help remedy the imbalance of traumatic images shared on social media. To do so, they’re sharing the stories and work of Black artists, and featuring moments of joy and triumph. Shavone Charles, VSCO’s director of consumer and product communications and driving force behind VSCO’s #BlackJoyMatters, previously told Teen Vogue that the issue isn’t that people are sharing trauma, but it becomes an issue when one community’s trauma is all that’s shared.
“Through our efforts to amplify Black stories, the most important piece I continue to think about is our duty to shine light on the nuance and the spectrum or our diaspora,” she said, adding that these stories should be “inclusive of but not exclusive to our trauma. We have scope and deep spectrum behind our stories and identities. There’s true depth and brilliance to all that we are.”
And that’s really the whole point — Black people are much more than their trauma. Recognizing that depth and brilliance on social media is a must.