Jason Reid on why social media’s not all bad
Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those pieces that bemoans social media and warns that over-usage will lead to your brain leaking out of your ears and the end of human interaction as we know it. Or something. I think there’s quite enough of those out there, ironically being shared over and over on Facebook.
Here I’m going to share my (mostly) positive experiences and observations as someone who uses social media everyday. Because regardless of what the critics say, I believe it’s a force for good. A happy place. Somewhere you can instantly connect with friends/family from all over the world, and meet interesting new people from different backgrounds. Once you’ve unfollowed or blocked everyone that irks you, that is. I used to feel guilty doing that, but now I really don’t because self-care is paramount. So take a deep breath and put your buns in, Linda, because the unfollow button is there for your benefit. And I must add that in my mind there is no right or wrong way to use SM. Just do you. We’re all different online and in the almost unrecognisable place we call real life nowadays.
I’ve worked in social media since 2014 and those jobs came about as a result of being an active known user. Even my QX gig, which I started back in 2011, was offered to me after being spotted by the then deputy editor on Facebook and judging Drag Idol. The positive power of social media?
If you look past the veneer of negativity that so often bombards our timelines, you’ll see countless examples of acts of kindness. Earlier this year when Marc Bates’ partner suddenly went missing, he appealed for support on Twitter. The result was thousands of retweets and six million plus views. Phil was found safe and well and the couple were reunited two months later.
Then there’s the 14-year old drag queen who was banned from performing at his school talent show. Subsequently, when the story hit Twitter, Lewis Bailey aka Athena Heart was inundated with support from the LGBT+ community and beyond. To my surprise, when I contacted Boy George on Twitter last year, not only did he donate memorabilia to the charity event I was producing, he also painted a piece of art specially.
When I shared my HIV story on Facebook, following its publication in this magazine, I braced myself for the absolute worst reaction from Joe Public, but for the most part I was met with a wave of love. There are a lot of good people out there.
Over the years, I’ve met people through social media that have not only enriched my life but have also changed my thinking. I’m proud to say that I’ve learnt so much from them. Interacting with LGBT+ people whose concerns and backgrounds are the polar opposite to mine has given me a deeper understanding of social issues that I’m now deeply passionate about. I wonder if I’d have come into contact with these people if it weren’t for social media? Possibly, but not definitely.
I know I said I was going to keep this piece mostly positive, like me (badoom-tsh!) but for what it’s worth, here are a few personal rules that I try to adhere to: don’t get into debates, because tone and feeling is more often than not lost on social media; don’t expect everyone to understand irony because they REALLY DO NOT; do take a detox (especially from Facebook) every now and then; do try to mix your content up, because there’s a fine line between self-promotion and self-adoration; do join the Nighty Night Facebook group immediately; don’t compare yourself to others, which I know is easier said than done but it’s a vicious cycle that can seriously affect one’s mental health.
Remove anything from your social sphere that detrimentally affects your self-worth. You are important whether you’re serving burgers outside Stratford station or performing to thousands. Likes do not equal happiness. And so many people only share the ‘greatest hits’ of their lives…remember that.
Social media is here to stay, and probably for a very long time in different manifestations, so either embrace it or ignore it. As long as the dark comedy memes keep coming thick and fast, I’ll be happy.
Jason Reid is Social Media Manager at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Follow him on Twitter @JasonReidUK