Social media brings similar people together, and does the same for veganism. Community members talk about its pros and cons.
As veganism soars in supermarkets, it also soars on social media. As with most trends, social media has snapped up veganism and created a cosy — or not so cosy — community, especially for vegans. But how cosy actually is this so-called community?
The vegan social media community consists of groups where vegans come together to discuss, share ideas and celebrate veganism. Instagram is creative, with people sharing photos of recipes recreating plant-based alternatives, which people interact with, enabling connection and a sense of community. Facebook also has a big vegan community, with a wide range of groups, where people post anything from questions to sharing food they’ve made or found in supermarkets.
The vegan community differs on Facebook and Instagram. The latter is more about art and creativity while informing and educating the audience, whereas Facebook is about people sharing things and communicating via comments and posts. Both platforms build a community, though, enabling vegans to connect and communicate, entertaining and informing one another.
The vegan social media community enables vegans from all over the world to come together at the push of a button — literally, in this case. “When I first went vegan, it enabled me to meet likeminded people,” says student Amelia Hopkinson. In this sense, it creates a safe space where people with similar values can meet and support one another by asking questions and sharing ideas.
Hopkinson adds that it helped her find new recipes, which was the main reason all the people interviewed for this story joined vegan social media groups. Madelane Finch says these groups helped her find recipes as well as vegan foods and restaurants, and Yasmin McKenzie agreed that these groups are “great for inspiration and meal ideas”.
Rachel Brownstein, a vegan food experimenter and Youtuber, adds that social media communities are a “great place to ask questions” and content creator, Sunshine Sarah, agrees they’re useful to “seek support”. With such a wide range of positives, including communication, inspiration and support, it’s clear that these groups create a sense of community. “You really feel a part of a community”, confirms Hopkinson. “You feel part of something bigger and doing this for a cause”, adds Sarah.
Despite the predominantly positive feedback, however, they also addressed the negatives of the vegan social media community. The main negative was that these groups sometimes perpetuate the perfectionist culture of veganism, making you “feel bad for not being as ‘vegan’ as them”, as Laura Smith explains.
Hopkinson agrees with this: “People expect you to be morally and ethically vegan in everything you do. They pounce on you for not shopping sustainably, or for buying a vegan burger from a chicken retailer such as KFC.”
“Another negative I’ve noticed,” says Finch, “is that a lot of mainstream vegan groups are dominated by white males,” which, of course, addresses the problem with white veganism. This raises a question of this sense of community, because how can people in a community criticise one another so freely? And it must represent everyone within it, which, according to Finch, the vegan social media community isn’t doing.
Nevertheless, no matter what anyone thinks, the vegan social media community is definitely here to stay. In 2018, the hashtag ‘#vegan’ had over 61 million posts on Instagram and it has now hit over 100 million. Considering both positives and negatives, this community definitely seems to be more of good than bad. When asked if they’d recommend joining a vegan group, all interviewees couldn’t have been surer.
“Absolutely!” affirmed Sarah. “They help you out so much and show you which products are coming out.” She also stresses the usefulness of joining these groups when you’re starting out, as does McKenzie, because “it’s a good way to know what you can buy and find other likeminded people”.
Finding out about new products seems to be another pro of being in a vegan group – no one wants to miss out. “When new products come out, I hear about them straight away,” Hopkinson explains. The interviewees mainly recommend joining vegan groups for inspiration. “I love using Instagram to interact with other vegans for inspiration,” says Finch, whose favourite feature is saving recipe posts for future reference. Smith feels the same, saying that they’re really helpful for meal and snack ideas. “But check the page to see if they’re there to help rather than make you feel bad for not doing enough,” she warns.
Hopkinson recommends joining a vegan group for your area if they have one. Sarah says the Veganuary social media pages helped her a lot when she first started, so this might be a good place to start.
Despite some drawbacks, the social media community of veganism is extremely beneficial to its members. It creates a sense of community between vegans, which otherwise wouldn’t exist, or would exist on a much smaller scale. It provides communication, inspiration and support, which is incredibly important and useful in enabling a movement like veganism to flourish. Everyone needs a community and social media seems to be where it works for veganism.