Social media. Social media can often be seen in a dark light and as something that can hinder one’s wellbeing. It can be a source of comparison and a play a role in the décor of one’s rabbit hole if they let themselves be consumed by the tiny squares or life updates from others who pick and choose what they share. But there is also another side to this platform, which can be so positive if used in the right way.
The way that we engage and use the online world has changed dramatically from years ago when Facebook was mainly used, with people just sharing updates on their life. However, now there are many outlets and are often used to start conversations and express stories. So given that now social media can be used to shed light on things that may be left in the dark, can at least some of it be seen as a force for good?
I use social media as a tool to express my voice, my thoughts and views about my disabled experience. My disability is something that I used to keep under wraps when I could, not really talking about it voluntarily. However after sometime, writing on this blog and by gentle encouragement from those around me I started to introduce my Cerebral Palsy. I found sharing my ideas in this way to be something that was so freeing, discussing my disability wasn’t something to be afraid of. Expressing this part of myself also allowed for connection with other disabled people and I learnt soo much in turn.
I wanted to know if others felt the same about social media-if others felt that good could come from social media, or if it was me just having rose-tinted glasses on. The responses I got reflected my thoughts that online can be used for good. First and foremost, sharing experiences an having a space to do this was something that I picked up from in one’s person response, saying how it “Gives a personal story of those whose voice might not be heard.” This was something that really resonated with me. Sometimes people may only be in touch with those who look like them, share similar interests and values and be part of the same community. This was also reflected in one response who said how friends of theirs who have “Difficulty [in] communication verbally” “Feel like they have a voice that is paid attention to on here [Instagram], as opposed to in-person interactions where others may avoid communicating with them, or have difficulty understanding them.” This is something that I could identify with, having a speech impediment myself.
It seems that by logging on to the online world, you are logging on to find lives away from your immediate one. One that could be informed and shaped in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be.
The freedom of expression was also something one person said to be a positive about using the online world, saying “Talking about the ups and downs and my ‘normal’ has not only helped me but also helped complete strangers who message that they feel the same way and even created new friendships.” In some regard then, this outlet could be considered an educational tool too. It definitely has for me. Reading/hearing perspectives from other disabled people allows me to better understand and reflect upon how I think about my disability.
The sense of gaining insight is not limited to a disabled person to another disabled person, non-disabled people can learn about disability too. One person replied saying how by listening to disabled people has “helped” them “destigmatize disability and tackle my own ableism”. Isn’t this what the platform should be for? To educate and shake up perspective ….and maybe the odd cute cat photo dump just to please the eyes?
Sharing experiences can be daunting, especially when you are unsure whether anyone will understand and/ or respect what is being said. Even now I still sometimes second guess myself when sharing some perspectives. And so, it is such a lovely feeling when people respond saying that they feel heard or understood. When I went to social media to find out what people thought social media was good for, the sense of community was something that a lot of people touched upon. Someone said how it allows for “Making genuine friendships and being part of a community that understands”, followed by someone else who said how this platform “Provides community and understanding.” The feeling of support is something that I also deeply feel. Whenever I post something online about disability I receive such supportive feedback, in terms of people saying how something resonated with them or sharing their experiences. I feel held. I feel understood. I feel less alone when experiencing such thoughts.
Even though social media can be a trying place at times and I do think it is important to step away from time to time- at weekends no screen time (or more limited screen time) is something I like to often do- it can also be used to bring about positivity. One person echoed how parts of this world can be a good thing, when they said “I have gained so much confidence especially in my body after seeing so many beautiful disabled women on here proudly posing in their wheelchairs, showing off their gorgeous selves and building up other women.”
I think we need to focus on using social media to create change and be a space that keeps starting helpful and useful conversations having even more reasons to celebrate the online world and work to minimize the harm created these platforms.