I’m writing this and posting it on social media, to convince people who don’t use social media to use it, and am thus wasting my time. Maybe you can email it you your husband/boyfriend/coworker/friend/brother, and then tell them to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me how wrong I am.
Social media is the worst. We know this. The data mining, the mental health implications, the unfortunate experience of discovering that someone you thought you liked is batshit crazy. These concerns are all valid, and true, and worth exploring–as they have been ad nauseam, but they are not enough to completely malign platforms that have also done a lot of good. I hate social media as much as everyone else, because sometimes it really is a waste of time. Sometimes (often times…maybe all the time) I do struggle from a low-boil constant jealousy from comparing myself to moms who live basically my exact same life, but with a better job. I let myself feel bad, even though I know they’re only posting the pretty stuff and not the parts where they’re covered in baby barf and crying because their kids are being dicks. I’m smart enough to know it’s filtered, but it still gets in my head because I have a regular human brain. Sometimes the emotional whiplash of scrolling through a jumble of politics, 27 random fun facts, friends’ vacation photos, and tragic news stories really does do a number on my already frazzled mental state. I definitely need to set better limits on my social media time, and I’ve been more thoughtful lately about what I allow in my feed, but I’m not going to delete my apps because as a woman I feel compelled to participate. Meanwhile, the message I’m getting from many of my male peers is that they feel as though they can and should opt out, and that is a problem.
I have had so many men of a certain type – white, cis, educated, successful, professionals in their 30s – explain to me that they don’t use social media because it is frivolous. They feel that their time is important and that Facebook and Instagram are for teenagers and little ladies, and this is where I find myself getting twitchy because my time is equally important, and I’m not big on frivolity. While there certainly is a fair share of fluff on social media, the great thing about these platforms is that you can, to a large degree, control what you see and that is where the magic happens. A well-culled feed is where the bright shiny goodness of social connectivity beams through our brains and starts chipping away at what we thought we knew. While these men tell me they are too important to be bothered by this thing that was created by them, but is not about them, they are continuing to bask in their unsullied privilege. They are blissfully unaware of what is simmering around them.
One aspect of social media that they clearly do not grasp is that it is big business. There is a lot of money being passed around outside of traditional corporate structures. I follow countless Instagram businesses, many of whom are artists who now have a functional way to market their work, but many others sell goods and services that have a useful appeal to mass audiences. Social media is probably the best form of advertising there is at the moment. Most of us no longer see television advertisements, and I know I don’t live a lifestyle where I’m leisurely perusing the latest fashion rag. Most large accounts are literally very pretty billboards. Of course, they do mostly cater to women, which is why they are often disregarded. Not everyone has caught on to the fact that women have money too. Honestly, though, while I think social media is great for building a brand, and is a huge boon to creatives, that is not really what I’m talking about when I say I am annoyed that men aren’t partaking.
If there is one thing alone that makes all the ills of social media worthwhile to me it is the unfiltered conveyance of thoughts that struggled to be heard for generations. Gender studies philosophies that I learned in tiny classrooms, squirreled away in the dark corners of my tiny liberal arts college are mainstream ideas now. Women, myself included, have told our stories about sexual harassment and assault, and people have started to listen. #yesallwomen, and #metoo have galvanized a generation. LGBTQ voices have been heard, and while they still don’t get all of the protections they deserve, and they can’t always live their lives without fear, huge strides have been made as far as marriage and family and inclusion are concerned. #blacklivesmatter has brought institutionalized racism into light more than anything else probably could have in what many white people had deemed a post-racial America. I had no idea, growing up in white suburbia, that black people were afraid of the police. I found out when I was in my 20s when a black person told me. I, like a lot of white people, was shocked to learn of this fear but thanks to social media, I now know it is valid, and it exists for good reason. Writing used to be filtered through a sieve of white male editors. Now anyone can hit publish! Even me! I obviously don’t agree with every voice, but I do want to listen to all of them, and I can honestly say that my mind has been changed many times by applying just a little thought and empathy to what I read. We don’t have to follow people who post only pretty pictures, but we all need to follow people who have very different political views and life experiences from ourselves. People who are brave enough to speak their minds, even though absorbing different viewpoints is sometimes stressful. I really think it’s that important to listen to all sides, and I sometimes even engage in civil dialogues…on Facebook…like a sadist (although I do live for a good debate).
As women and minorities continue to lag professionally we really need our white male peers to listen in on these conversations. As they are moving into positions of power, these are the people who are going to help us have safe work environments. They are going to help us with parental leave, and better hiring practices for minorities, and equal pay for everyone. We need this group to be our bridge. We women of this generation are having babies with these men, and we need them to help create the world we want for our children, both professionally and socially. These guys are young enough to understand social media, and powerful enough to make changes. We need our allies to do better.