It always seems ironic to me when people complain about social media while using social media. Even the columnist writing their least original article ever relies on social media to publicise their views on the topic. Social media can be a hotbed of controversy and lies, but it can also provide connection to even the most isolated, which in the midst of a pandemic has been a literal lifeline to many.
My personal experience of social media use has been pretty positive overall, and while I’ve had to deal with some trolls and bullies, it’s never been more than I could handle. I’ve also learnt a huge amount from other users, particularly in regards to other disabilities that I have no personal experience of, but also in regards to racial issues, religion, and politics. I would not have learned about screen readers and the importance of alternative text on images, or how annoying the overuse of emojis is. I would not have learned about the problems automated captions on videos cause beyond the obvious inaccuracies. I would not have learned about the important roles played by Black people in the civil rights movements of the LGBTQAI+ and disabled communities, without whose contributions significant progressions may never have even happened, and which we were never taught about at school.
Social media has allowed me to connect with prominent disability activists and boost my own profile. It’s also allowed me to connect with people and form real friendships, including meeting one of my real-life BFF’s. It has helped me manage my mental health, and on days when I am struggling under the weight of depression and anxiety it has been an essential tool for helping me cope. I could even go so far as to say that social media helped me discover myself, as without such welcoming exposure to queer culture, I may not have been able to explore my gender.
I’ve also been told that my own social media output has helped people to learn and grow, and between us all the disability community is certainly having an impact if recent events are to be recognised. When a horribly ableist comment was being shared on Twitter, portraying a protest by disabled people from several years ago as being part of the recent coup, many disabled people like myself were quick to call it out. In addition to this, and for the first time in my experience, able-bodied individuals began sharing the comment and independently calling out both the misinformation and the ableism. I could not quite believe it until other users confirmed that they had seen it too!
I do not deny that social media is a hotbed of lies and bullies, but it is also a tool for communication, creativity, and inspiration (not the porn kind). Social media has two sides, and saying that the world would be better off without it because of its bad side would be taking a step backwards, forcing people back into isolation. For many disabled people, this would be like taking their voice. Frankly, if you do not like social media, why are you using it to complain about it?