Words of Influence: Jamie Broadnax
Text: Roger Batson
Ourselves Black chatted with Jamie Broadnax, founder of Black Girl Nerds, for our series exploring how social media influencers protect their mental health. Since 2012, Black Girl Nerds has been an online community that recognizes and celebrates “the concept of Black women as geeky-dorky beings,” and aims to bring visibility to black girl nerds. Here’s what Broadnax, a blogger, film critic and self-described nerd, had to say about navigating the social media landscape.
When and why did you start Black Girl Nerds?
JB: I went on Google looking for content and typed in “Black Girl Nerds.” Nothing came up in the search engine, and I decided to create a blog with the name since clearly there wasn’t any web content online under that moniker.
What do you think about our current social media environment?
JB: It has its pros and cons. Obviously, social media has been a great conduit for the Black Girl Nerds brand and helped the publication build a following and grow its platform. However, I am aware of how negative and toxic social media has become, especially with Trump in office using the social network as a tool for vitriol and hate.
Is it a healthy environment for protecting one’s mental health?
JB: I think there are pockets of social media that help effect change and foster small online communities that can talk about issues like mental health. However, I also believe social media can have an adverse effect on someone’s mental health. The incessant need for likes and retweets, the negativity flooded in your timeline feed, the culture of dragging someone down when they’ve made a mistake or done something wrong. It can be an environment that breeds negativity, which is not always good for mental health.
How do you protect your mental health in such an environment, and are there any challenges to doing so?
JB: The only way to protect it is to use your time on social media to find those communities that are positive and support your interests, or disconnect from the platform altogether.
Do you think social media can be more challenging or more hostile toward black users?
JB: Absolutely. I’m of the belief that black users are targeted and cyberbullied more than white users. An example is how (actress) Leslie Jones was treated from the litany of trolls that came after her just because she had a starring role in the “Ghostbusters” film, yet none of her white co-starts were targeted in that way.
Since social media aims to keep you plugged in or connected at all times, do you ever feel the need to unplug or disconnect?
JB: Absolutely. I have found that by unplugging for awhile does a lot for your mental health. Sometimes it gets too noisy out there with all of the opinions that force you to change yours based on groupthink.
As an influential voice in social media, is it possible to keep a balance in your online life and your personal life?
JB: I’ll be honest, it comes with its set of challenges. I have found myself at times spending way more time on social media than I should. By that I mean morning, noon and night, and that’s not healthy. I can only speak for myself when I say that having a social media presence came with a bit of sacrifice from spending time outside the four corners of the internet.
Do you ever feel any pressure on you, or the work you do, being an influential black voice on social media?
I have and I still do. People have expectations of you, and if you don’t meet those expectations, it can be difficult. I can only be me, warts and all.
How do you deal with trolls and some of the uglier side of social media?
JB: Ignore and block. It’s all you can do.
Have there ever been any difficult moments where it all became too overwhelming and you wanted to pull back or step away from it all?
JB: Absolutely. But at the end of the day, I do enjoy social media and I am grateful for what it has done for my platform.
How did you cope and find your way back?
JB: One day at a time. Take a day to just spend time with yourself or with others. Read a book. Watch a romantic comedy. Find something that makes you happy . You’ll be surprised how quickly you realize how much bigger life is outside of social media.
What advice would you give to any user of social media to protect their mental health?
JB: Take it in small doses. Don’t live, eat and breathe social media all of the time. It can definitely impact you in a negative way if you do. It’s the same principle of not eating too much or not drinking too much. If you take it in small amounts, you will be fine. If you overdo it, then it can be harmful.
And lastly, do you find anything online or in social media that inspires you, and do you feel it is important to find those things that inspire you o n social media?
JB: I’m inspired by live-tweeting and conversation with fans and followers about their favorite fandoms and such. I’m inspired when I see people rallying together for an important cause. When people use the platform for good and not hate and vitriol, that is what inspires me.