Social Media is something everyone knows about these days. I mean, my Grandma is even on Facebook! It gives us a way to keep in touch with friends and family that are everywhere. It gives us a way to connect with people we would never be able to meet. I've made some of the greatest friends through Twitter. It may sound weird to some people but it's true.
There are so many positives to social media. Kids that are struggling with coming out in their conservative families have a way to reach out to others and get encouragement to make it through. ‘R U Coming Out’ was created for that explicit reason. Kids can read coming out stories and find encouragement through those stories. The ‘It Gets Better’ project was created for the same idea. Kids need to know that the struggling that they are going through is temporary. They will be able to overcome it because so many of us have.
I have had the distinct honor in having several people that were struggling with being gay or lesbian reach out to me via Twitter, my writings or my YouTube page. When I received that first contact from someone who was asking for help and guidance, I started to cry tears of joy because I was able to be there for someone and understand what they were going through. Without social media I wouldn't have had that opportunity to be able to offer my support.
Social Media also has given me a voice that I didn't think I was possible of having.
"The kid I used to be in high school was quiet and made every effort to make himself invisible. I wanted to avoid confrontation at all costs. Now that I've found that I can help others by standing up to bullies and people who disagree with the LGBT Community, I'm no longer invisible."
There are cons to social media as well and I want to take a moment and talk about that and the harmful effects that can have. Within the Gay Community, you see multiple people on Twitter and YouTube that are in ridiculously good shape and extremely attractive. Online magazines and blogs exploit the physical form of the Adonis male and we look at them as 'gymspirations'. Let me tell you what I saw when I was a kid.
I looked at gay porn when I was in high school. There's nothing to be ashamed of, I know that now, but when I was in high school I was ashamed - but that's a different talk for a different time. What I saw online were pictures of men that were in the most immaculate shape. I thought that was what I had to look like in order to be accepted within the Gay Community. So, when I got into college, I started working out all the time. It took years for me to gain weight because I was an extremely thin kid. And yes, calling someone skinny hurts just as bad as calling someone fat.
The point is, we are putting the idea out there that you might only be accepted in the Gay Community if you fit a certain stereotype. Social Media is there to exploit that idea. There are men that have pictures of themselves naked in their profile or shirtless. We have people using fake accounts with pictures of models as their AVI because they want to be accepted by others on Social Media. Are we showing that the community is accepting of everyone or just if you're good looking enough?
This brings another situation up, online bullying. You can see this as an everyday occurrence online. This isn't something that just happens between strangers, although, some of the most cruel things are said by that group sometimes. I've seen so many tweets from people making fun of a person that is on twitter or another social media avenue. They get so brazen because they are somewhat disconnected from saying it to that person face to face they're tweeting it anonymously at times.
"Why are we cutting each other down when we should be building each other up?
Let's make some changes. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all. Kill them with kindness. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
We can stop exploiting the male figure and change the idea that we all must be this exact form. We can learn to accept others for who they are and what they look like. In turn we can better accept ourselves. We can use social media to reach out and help someone. We can use it to encourage kids who are struggling. We all remember what it feels like to be teased and made fun of, why do you want to do that to someone else when you remember how much it hurt, especially to someone in your own community?
Your use of social media can be many reasons. To escape, to join in, to make friends or to make a positive change. Whatever the case may be, be aware of the image you're putting out there. I want someone to look at my profiles online and the things I say and be encouraged, not turned away because they don't feel they have 'the look'. Let's use social media for the amazing potential it has and help others, encourage others and be true to ourselves!
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