The Pop Profile series is a peek into the creative process of some of the most talented people making content on social media. It’s a chance for them to step out from behind the camera, into the spotlight, and let us pick their brains. This week, we’re talking with Anna Russett: @annarussett on Instagram and Anna Russett on YouTube.
If you hopped on social media at any point in March, you were almost certainly reminded that it was Women’s History Month. We caught up with Anna Russett this March to hear how she’s using her platform to spread messages of female empowerment all year-round. Anna Russett is gaining a reputation for going beyond the surface-level of our social feeds, and getting real about issues affecting girls and women.
Our talk with Anna shed light on the dark side of social media: how unattainable physical standards and photoshopped bodies can impact developing minds. Anna’s concerned with how social media might be leading young girls to set unrealistic expectations for themselves, ultimately breaking down their confidence. The good news? There are lots of strong, confident women pushing back and spreading positivity on social too. So many women like Anna are encouraging one another to speak their truth, stand firm in their convictions, and set an example for younger women. As you’ll see in her own words, Anna is not afraid to take a risk, to be heard, and to inspire others to do the same. For every dark spot on social media, there’s someone using that opportunity to make a positive impact in peoples’ lives.
On wearing many hats (and having many titles):
“At school I was called a new media artist, on YouTube I’m a creator, on Instagram I’m an influencer, and in the advertising world I’m a Creative Director at Havas Chicago. I’ve gained an audience of over 200,000 across online platforms where I create video, photography, text and code to share vlogs, tutorials, internet and social media art that encourages other young women to be critical of and take part in shaping the world around us.
My parents are graphic designers, so we had Mac computers in our house when I was super young. I got into the internet and social media early on and would just experiment on new social platforms that would pop up. Back when I joined YouTube and Instagram, the algorithms that control how we view and find people were much different and honestly basically nonexistent. It was much easier to be discovered and the front page of YouTube featured creators instead of publishers, so my content was found by a lot of people just by the nature of the platforms.”
Getting started and staying connected:
“I started off making random one-off short videos of myself dancing around avoiding homework or just talking into the camera about my life. Eventually I started creating videos around my interests and passions, talking about topics like art, feminism, and social media from a critical standpoint and always from an accessible, down to earth perspective. I love that anyone can pick up a camera and share their ideas online and I wanted to be part of that. This translated over to Instagram and Snapchat, where I’ve kept engaging and getting to know the girls who follow me over the past few years. Their feedback has been essential to what I do, and I often view my followers as my collaborators on the videos and projects I put out. Without their feedback, I wouldn’t make things that matter to them and I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Using her platform as a catalyst for change:
“Girls are often dismissed or trivialized when it comes to the issues they care about, and aren’t always taken seriously on political or critical matters in the world. I try to amplify the voices of my followers, who are mostly young girls, through my platform. I stay in touch with how they feel about different things, from current events to pop culture, and infuse my own perspectives to create work that hopefully shines light on their voices, and validates their experiences as real and important. I hope this inspires them to confidently continue to question the world and know their opinions and perspectives matter immensely in how we shape our world.”
Her involvement with Cause the Effect
“Cause the Effect is all about empowering women to effect change through activism, civic engagement, and political giving. Their Young Feminist Ambassador program is focused around young women in Chicago. My friend, L’Oreal Thompson Payton, knew I would love to be part of that program, and help organize with Meghan Houlihan Christiansen (Executive Director of Cause the Effect Chicago,) and the girls on an upcoming event, #MeTooForTeens. The #MeToo movement has been monumental for working women, but we know sexism and harassment effects girls before they even enter the workforce. We thought that if we could have discussions earlier about patriarchy’s insidious effects on women and society, and how we can combat those, we could hope that sexual harassment and sexism later in life could be less of a problem, if one at all.
I provided perspective from my work with young women online, and helped structure the event with Meghan. I also spoke during the event about dress codes and the sexism embedded within those rules. I screened a YouTube video I made called “Dress Code Haul” which satirically shows off clothing items that girls can wear to school that won’t be distracting to guys in their class but that will still convey that they are ladies. We discussed how dress codes are disproportionately enforced with girls of color and girls of different sizes, and how dress codes prioritize the attention of heterosexual young men over anyone else’s.”
Navigating the dark sides of social media and shining light on the positive:
“I think social media can be both empowering and damaging to women. The apps and their algorithms are designed to keep us hooked, forever scrolling and viewing content that provokes a reaction from us. The bubbles we find ourselves in can really affect how we view ourselves and the world. If we only follow Instagram models and subject ourselves to a single beauty standard, we will start to have a warped sense of reality. The algorithms are more to blame than ourselves, but I try to encourage girls to follow many different types of people and content so that they get a wide variety of media in their feed. I also encourage girls to always question how these platforms work and to try our best to keep a healthy relationship with our phones and apps.”
On disconnecting, to reconnect with reality:
“If you’re feeling emotionally drained from your attachment to social media (as I often do), I recommend setting boundaries. I won’t look at my phone when I’m in a Lyft, when I’m walking to work, or when I’m hanging out with a friend. I turned off all my social notifications so that I can actively choose when I want to go to social media, instead of social media telling me when to look at it. My email only shows me new emails when I go into the app and actually refresh it myself.
Our phones shouldn’t own us. I truly believe we will look back at this time years from now and think we were all insane for being so tied up in these things.”
Sound advice for her 13 year old self (and for all of us, really):
“Trust yourself more. You are an expert on your personal experiences, and sharing those experiences can help others understand themselves too.”
Another thank you to Anna for getting real, staying loud, and creating a space of growth and support for her followers (ourselves included). We look forward to following her journey. Want to learn more about us and our inspiring community of content creators? Head over to Pop Pays and check us out. You can get started by signing up on our Web App. Follow us on here for more profiles of people we’re proud to call Creators on our platform.