Student voice blossoms through use of social media

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Mia de Castro Basto. Photo courtesy of Mia de Castro Basto.

Kate Kotlyar staff writer

What started as a simple idea of posting acne progress photos to Instagram blossomed into senior Mia de Castro Basto’s passion for helping people and the planet. 

De Castro Basto started documenting her journey with cystic acne and Accutane in 2019. As her Instagram account, @miadecastroo, has gained popularity, de Castro Basto started to post about mental health issues and even created her environmental awareness website in 2020. 

De Castro Basto started the medication in May 2019, her sophomore year of high school, because she had tried “everything else and it didn’t work” to clear her acne.

“In the beginning it was really, really challenging. I felt super alone. Other people would complain about their skin and they’d have one pimple. I was at a point sophomore year where I would wake up with like five new actives every day. So, waking up with one pimple was like, ‘Oh my god I’m having such a good skin day,’” de Castro Basto said. “It was really frustrating to hear those comments and people talk about [how they’re] so ugly because [they] have acne, and again, it was like one pimple. It really just hurt my self esteem at the time.”

De Castro Basto’s acne worsened her anxiety and complex PTSD. She turned to social media where she found a community of people posting to Instagram about their mental health issues and acne problems. 

“I learned a lot through the Instagram community. There are so many people that had the same thing happen to them where they felt really alone, and then they found this online community where they realized they weren’t alone. Realizing that I wasn’t alone really helped,” de Castro Basto said. 

People have reached out to her through Instagram’s direct message feature explaining how her content has made them “feel better.” This positive reaction helped her realize she is “passionate” about her content and hopes that people get “enjoyment” out of her posts. 

“It made me feel really happy and it also elicited a passion for just helping people in general. I think it’s really showing me that I want to take an active role in the future with helping people in general. I want to take an active role in college with that and be, really, an advocate for student voices and people’s voices in general,” de Castro Basto said. 

One of de Castro Basto’s close friends, senior Josh Neidleman, has been with her through her skin care struggles and environmental frustrations. 

“As a sophomore, she was angry about all this skincare stuff…and environmental issues…because she was dealing with it personally but she didn’t have a platform [like] she does now. It used to be that she would just talk about it with frustration, but now she has an actual platform to voice her concerns over. I’m proud of the way that she’s found a way to vocalize her frustration in a productive way that reaches people,” Neidlman said.

De Castro Basto launched her environmental awareness website during her summer quarantine due to COVID-19.

“Over COVID-19 I felt really out of touch. I have my Environmental Awareness club, but I wanted to do a lot more volunteering and really just pursue my environmental passion; it’s what I want to do in college,” de Castro Basto said. “And so I started [my website] because I have a lot of things to say about environmental stuff. I’m super passionate about it. It really just gives me a place where I can rant about all the things that are on my mind, but also, in making the website, I kind of learned more about what I want to learn about.”

Similar to de Castro Basto, Neidleman believes that her website has “improved her knowledge” on environmental issues and how best to combat them. 

Because of her concern for the Earth and waste reduction, de Castro Basto takes precautions to ensure the Earth’s and human’s safety, such as recycling “a lot,” refraining from shopping online, avoiding fast-fashion brands and thrift shopping.  

“I think that there is an idea that the consumer and us as individuals don’t make a huge difference. We don’t think about how much we consume and how much waste we produce as individuals, and so I really wanted to highlight that you can make an impact. There’s also a huge thing about [how] it’s the fault of businesses who don’t have enough regulations and…[that] someone else should do something about it,” de Castro Basto said. “But really when it comes down to it, there is change that each individual person can do, and blaming others and constantly saying that there is a reason why you aren’t changing your behaviors, is just creating more of a problem.”

As well as building her online persona around skin positivity, mental health discussions and environmental awareness, de Castro Basto uses her platform to shed light on racial injustices she notices on social media by promoting an account of a person of color each month.  

“The BLM protests over the summer really got everyone thinking… I wanted to sort of shed light that my page is a place for everyone, especially, just because social media unfortunately is dominated by cis-het white people. It’s just, that’s how it is and it’s really unfortunate. And so I want to bring more awareness to the smaller platforms, like there’s no reason why a person of color or someone of the LGBTQ community or someone who isn’t cis[gender] should have less of a following just because of those [qualities].”

De Castro Basto’s journey began with finding a positive Instagram community for her acne obstacles that developed into finding her voice in environmental issues, mental health issues and racial injustices. Despite the various obstacles in mental health and self-esteem she faced, in the end she “has learned to appreciate [her] skin.”

 “It made me realize that skin isn’t everything and we pay so much attention to looks these days. Having bad skin or just a chaotic skin situation helped me realize who I was on the inside and create a personality and find out who I was without being reliant on like looks to define my worth,” de Castro Basto said. “It really just is a blessing that I get to have my own skin that I get to exist in.” 

You can follow Mia de Castro Basto on Instagram here.

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