I’m sure you’ve considered what you eat on a daily basis. You might have even Instagrammed it. But have you ever examined your Visual Diet? This concept is the title of a new project launched as a collaboration between Mimi Gray, Head of Visual Content at M&C Saatchi, the world-renowned photographer Rankin and Marine Tanguy, founder of MTArt Agency.
At an evening hosted in M&C Saatchi’s London offices, the project’s three founders took to the stage alongside photographer and director Gem Fletcher and mental health author Aaron Gillies to discuss and raise awareness of the impact our visual diet has on our, and more specifically young people’s, mental health. The evening began by highlighting the astonishing fact that while Kim Kardashian has 125 million followers, the Louvre museum has 2.5 million (boosted recently by Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s seal of approval after they shot a music video there). People would rather fill their feeds with aspirational celebrities than mind-enhancing works of art. Marine put it plainly when she said, “We do not only experience an addiction to tech but to the images on those tech platforms too.”
As a project, Visual Diet explores the reality that You Are What You See. Rankin believes that the social media platforms themselves aren’t taking enough responsibility for what they have created. The platforms are unregulated and, as they were designed to be, addictive. This is having a particularly dangerous effect on young people and their mental health. As Aaron said about Twitter specifically, “The stupidest voices are the loudest and so they drown out the positivity”.
But while the platforms themselves, with the help of the government, need to take a degree of responsibility, so too do the brands and agencies creating much of the imagery we see. As Aaron said, “The burden has landed on the individual to protect their mental health because brands aren’t.” In her Instagram story, Gem Fletcher posted a quote from the design studio Bompas & Parr who said “Brands are the creative patrons of the 21st century” highlighting the cultural power that these companies can wield.
Social media isn’t going anywhere, and Visual Diet isn’t suggesting that it should. But, as with all diets, what we consume visually should be balanced. Just as you should eat junk food in moderation, so it should be with the ‘junk’ imagery you consume visually online.
Mimi Gray, Head of Visual Content, M&C Saatchi
Marine Tanguy, Founder, MTArt Agency
Gem Fletcher, photographer & director
Aaron Gillies, mental health author of ‘How to Survive the End of the World’