A definition of social media that gets thrown a lot is that it's a 'double-edged sword'. And rightfully, so. On one end you have a vast network of like-minded people showcasing support and new possibilities, and on the other, a dark hole that if wandered carelessly might suck you in until further notice. However, during our Teen Vogue Summit, Express Yourself: Creativity Through Social Media panel, we got to speak with three creatives who are reinventing that infamous definition and proving that no matter where you are in your creative journey there's a community waiting for you with open arms that will help you celebrate and embrace your unapologetic self. Cue Mónica Hernández, Alexandra Cuerdo, and Lili Higgins.
Hernández expresses herself and how she engages with the body, religion, and representation via her paintings (previously she was part of VSCO's Make It Anyway campaign), Cuerdo is a filmmaker and the recipient of the 2019 VSCO Voices Artist Grant for her work with the queer Asian community in New York (not to mention her film ULAM: Main Dish is the first Filipino documentary on Hulu!) and Higgins, at only 19, has shared her bold, kaleidoscopic images lens of life at Wisconsin to the world. Three different artistic mediums that have taken them from being islands to being part of a larger community in which social media plays a vital role. However, all three of them have found how to use it to their advantage and propel themselves, their mental health, and their community.
As creators, they're always putting themselves (and their work) out there, exposing themselves to criticism and burn out, but Hernández has a friendly reminder when it comes to maintaining her mental health and practicing self-care: "I have to remember that I am more than my work. Yes, it is such a big part of me, but if I have a bad day or a bad week or a bad month, when I'm not making the work I want to make or I'm not just making any work at all, I can't allow that to really affect me. Because if I'm in it for the long haul, and I'm in it for the rest of your life, there are going to be dry periods, there are going to be periods that I'm not making work, I just have to pace myself and be kind to myself."
By putting themselves first and taking a step back, Hernández isn't the only one who's able to find the confidence and conviction to create boldly and fearlessly, no matter the labels. That's also something Higgins is highly aware of: "I have all these boxes. I'm queer; a woman of color; 19; not going to school. I'm all those things, but I'm still creating things that I love. No matter what these boxes and labels are. Yes, you can live by labels, but I'm more than that. We're all more than that. They're just labels. That's all they are. [Despite them] I show people who I am and what I look like. Even when I don't like what I look like. It's who you are. Enjoy yourself, love yourself always. No matter who you are, what you look like, matter where you're from. It's you. You already are the person. No one else is you, so just be yourself."
By staying true to themselves, these artists have found their own communities and ultimately each other on Teen Vogue's Summit stage showcasing that one side of the social media sword that is really an extended arm when seen through the right lens. Sometimes you get to see it when you keep your ground and other times, you have more eyes than you can count helping you see the way. For Cuerdo, there are indeed safe places online (and IRL), whether it be with her friends at Bubble_T or her fellow creatives: "[My community] are the people I collaborate with, those are the people who bring each other up. That's the kind of the way you, can [navigate social media] is as a part of your community and everyone you meet that's another person that can help you achieve your dreams. [Social media] is a way that we've all been able to connect."
Download VSCO here and be part of an amazing community of creators along with Mónica, Lili, and Alexandra.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue