After being in two abusive relationships as a teenager, California College of the Arts student Camille Urso uses her online presence to reach out to female victims of domestic violence.
“Though this world is set up to make sure I am a self-loathing and submissive victim, I will never again see myself in that light,” one caption on her Instagram account reads. “Celebrate yourself not only today but every day.”
Urso, 22, said that when she was in abusive relationships, she blamed herself for the mistreatment, because she chose partners who abused her.
“It was just this terrible, dark place, and I was upset all the time,” Urso said. “Everything I saw in (the media) would only encourage or solidify or validate everything my boyfriend at the time was saying or doing, because that’s the kind of imagery that we’re bombarded with.”
Urso said she started reading literature written by other women who had gone through abuse, which helped her to cope and eventually inspired her to use her experiences to help others. She now has more than 2,700 followers on her personal Instagram account (@brasiliangold).
“I decided that I need to put stuff out there that I wish I could have read when I was going through a hard time,” Urso said. “I know there’s literature like that out in the world, but not enough where I feel like me putting that out there will be redundant. I feel like it needs to be said again and again and again.”
Melissa Camacho, who teaches a women and media course at SF State, said that although social media can be a great place for women to “network with other women and create communities,” it can also become a place for women to bully each other.
“The social norms in any society are going to be reflected in social media,” Camacho said. “I think women see that potential, but it comes down to how they are going to use it. From TV to radio to Internet, we’re still having the conversation about gender. Social media is no different.”
SF State French and art history double major Chelsea McGehee is one of many female college students who moderate Snapchat takeovers for the popular Instagram account @thecollegebabes. The account provides its more than 170,000 followers with daily photographs of college girls on their campuses, at the beach or partying.
The account hands over its Snapchat password to various women featured on the account to show viewers what a typical day looks like for each person.
However, McGehee, who models as a hobby, said she does her Snapchat takeovers a little differently.
“I’ve been really successful at it, because I’m really quirky and I’m myself,” McGehee said. “A lot of girls get on there and just show their bodies, and I try to have conversations with people to show them the real me.”
McGehee starting doing Snapchat takeovers for @thecollegebabes at the beginning of the Fall 2015 semester after the account direct messaged her on Instagram and asked her if she was interested.
“I like to do Snapchat takeovers because they show off my personality,” McGehee said. “I think that’s why (the owner of @thecollegebabes account) asks me to take over a lot, because it keeps people interested, rather than like, ‘Oh, this is some other girl just trying to get attention on Snapchat.’”
McGehee’s Instagram account (@chelseamcgehee) features mostly pictures from modeling photo shoots she’s done. The 23-year-old has more than 84,000 individual followers. Despite her success, McGehee said that she doesn’t view her modeling as a career, but rather an outlet to have fun and engage with other people.
“I’m all about women empowerment and really inspiring women to be comfortable in their bodies and put themselves out there,” McGehee said. “That’s the kind of image I’m really trying to portray on my Instagram.”