By Michelle E. Brown
Originally Printed 3/5/2015 in issue 2310 of Between The Lines Newspaper
We have become so connected by text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest, that sometimes we, myself included, forget about personal contacts.
I’ve followed relationships; seen them begin, flourish, sometimes fall apart, then rekindle – often with accompanying photos – on-line.
It’s like we’ve all become Santa Claus – knowing when our friends are sleeping; when they’re awake; when they’ve been bad or good. Especially hoping they’ve been good and if not, for goodness sake, not to have taken photos because they’ll be all over the web for the world to see.
My data usage exceeds my actual minutes because, like so many of my friends, I just send a text. And when I have something juicy to say, I’ve figured out how to relay it in under 140 characters, including hash tags for maximum impact, via Twitter.
When asked about the last time I talked or heard from someone, I often find myself citing a tweet, text or post. I feel like I’m in touch but…
In recent months I have heard about engagements, weddings, births, job promotions and other events mostly on Facebook. It has been generally happy news.
Most of the time it hasn’t come as a surprise. I’ve replied “Congratulations” and then hit send. I’ve looked at the pictures, hit like, smiled and shared them with mutual friends. Some of the more outrageous posts even merit a comment – “OMG,” “WTF” and/or some personal remarks.
Sometimes the news hasn’t been good – illnesses and, unfortunately, deaths. At these moments, “like” just doesn’t get it and comments fall short. Thinking about the losses of Charity Hicks, Robert Clark, Tito Gutierrez, Chantay Legacy Leonard and Santiago Lopez, I have to say these have been the hardest.
We make friends; begin and end relationships; make announcements; organize; mobilize and get our local, national and our all-important entertainment news online.
The world not only is now flat but, with a click of a mouse, we can also connect with people and events across the globe. All this connectivity, all this knowledge at our finger tips… one would think all our problems should be over. In some instances, they seem to be exacerbated as we lose our connection with one another.
Are friends whom we only know in the Facebook World – no matter how many likes/shares – dearer or closer than our “ride or die” friends from ‘back in the day’?
Are we getting beyond the posts, tweets and photos to get the details, to act and/or react beyond the one-click option? And after the firestorm of likes, posts, tweets and hash tags, how soon do we forget about the people?
Where are those kidnapped Nigerian school girls? How has life changed for the thousands living with ALS after the success of the “Ice Bucket” challenge? If “All Lives Matter,” why are members of the black community and transgender community still in peril?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in social media – its ability to connect, inform, motivate and even empower us. But I believe in the power of the personal.
I believe in the power of real conversations with actual friends, checking in on one another and giving real hugs. What if we went out of our way to make a new acquaintance in the real world, like getting to know your neighbor, saying hello to a stranger and smiling (I mean actually smiling with your mouth… not an emoji).
As much as I love looking at photos and sharing with my friends, I believe it is just as important – if not more so – to live our LGBTQ lives out in the world so that everyone can see we – our loves, our families and our lives – are as diverse and unique as any other, and our quest for equality is just and right.
I am no stranger to the selfie, but more important than the likes from friends are the visible changes in attitude from people when my love and I exchange a hug, kiss or hold hands in the real world while at dinner, walking down the street or even traveling.
Maybe it’s time to come out again – out from behind our computers, tablets and smartphones and be out in our communities.
Let’s use social media as a platform to dive back into the lives of our friends, to strengthen the connections within our community, to share news from near and far that will educate, empower and remind us that oppression is interlinked and cannot be solved alone.
But more importantly, let’s use social media to tap into our intersectionality, then move our hearts and minds to get off the couch and get out there to build a better world that, even though it has been flattened by technology, is richer by the diversity found in our online worlds.
Michelle E. Brown is a public speaker, activist and author. Her books are available at bookstore.authorhouse.com or http://www.mychangeiam.com. You can also follow her at http://www.twitter.com/mychangeiam.