What’s there to say about social media that hasn’t already been said? I remember spending hours on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) as an angsty teen, commiserating with my friends about life, love, and the existential dread of growing up. After that, Xanga became a thing briefly before MySpace conquered the world, serving as a harbinger for what are now deemed classic emo bands (My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, Gym Class Heroes, etc.) and online dating. Facebook came around when I was in high school, and from there, the digital scene exploded.
Nowadays, there are more social media websites and apps than a person can possibly keep track of. I’m somewhat familiar with Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, YouTube, Grindr, and LinkedIn, but once you get into the Snapchat/TikTok realm, I’m totally lost. To me, “TikTok” is that Ke$ha song that came out in college (which is why I only respond with Ke$ha GIFs when somebody sends me a TikTok video), and the idea of sending somebody a picture or video, only for it to disappear after 30 seconds, is completely nonsensical.
Then there’s all of the new lingo that’s come out of the social media revolution: liking, sliding into (somebody’s) DMs, going live—it’s too much to keep track of. Because I don’t social media a lot anymore (besides my meditation app #insighttimer), I often confuse new terms, coming up with hilarious misspeaks like thirstbate, Bumblr, and clicktrap. It probably drives the people around me crazy, but upon learning my mistake, I think my linguistic blunders are quite funny.
Which brings me to Out of Yer Shell.
If you want to start anything successful in 2021, not having a social media presence is the kiss of death. How will people find out about you if you’re not on all of the websites and apps?
Out of Yer Shell has been around for a little over a year now, and our social media presence is close to non-existent. We have an Instagram account floating around in cyberspace, but I don’t think we’ve posted anything since Dan Radcliffe reminded us that, despite J.K. Rowling’s flaws, Harry Potter still loves the trans and non-binary community.
That being said, the number of people who visit OOYS every month has been steadily increasing. We’re very much a word-of-mouth resource (we are currently featured on the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s website and have appeared in publications by One-Colorado and Sources of Strength), and while we could probably increase our reach with an active social media account, I have five main reasons for not doing so:
1. I Don’t Feel Like It
Maintaining a thriving social media presence is A LOT of work. Before I co-created Out of Yer Shell, I had a Facebook and Instagram for my artistic outputs, and when I tried to post regularly, I didn’t always feel like it was All Killer and No Filler, if you catch my drift (and Sum 41 reference). With Out of Yer Shell, I want to produce quality content, regardless of how long it takes me to finish, rather than an onslaught of quantity. Sometimes I wish OOYS had a bigger following on social media so I could share helpful articles and videos (like this) from other creators, but those times are so rare that it’s not worth putting in the effort.
In addition to being intentional with how the content is disseminated, there’s also the matter of wanting to spend time posting. Here’s the T, BB:
I have better things to do than go on Instagram.
I’m an avid reader (I just finished So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, and it was awesome), I record music, I’m finishing up my master’s degree, and I LOVE walking. I love walking so much that I came up with a business idea for getting paid to hatch people’s eggs in Pokémon Go just so I could have a career where I spent the whole day walking. Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work out, so now I’m a social worker…
For me, these activities are so much more fun and rewarding than losing an hour to a social media feed. Plus, my partner and I just got into RuPaul’s Drag Race, so now I have to get caught up on all 14 seasons.
Sorry social media, I just don’t have time for you.
Maybe if I knew somebody else who was willing to internet for Out of Yer Shell for free, I would consider upping our game, but I have millions of excuses for why I don’t personally want to do it; which leads me to my next point:
2. Social Media is Bad for My Mental Health
There is a ton of research floating around in the ether of the interwebs about the effects of social media on mental health. It’s the trendy new topic among researchers who want to be relevant (Because & Duh, 2021). Some of the articles assert that there’s an indisputable connection between depression/anxiety and social media use, while others don’t see a statistically significant correlation.
When I came out, I started following a bunch of different LGBTQIA+ influencers on Hipstergram to develop a sense of community and wash away the inexplicable imposter syndrome that gnawed at me. At first, I was really excited to see all of the wonderful queer folx who were making their mark on the digital world: beautiful and brilliant femmes, unapologetically talented masc folx, non-binary people who encouraged gender norms to lay down and die, and of course, Trixie Mattel…because duh.
It was refreshing to be able to access a community who understood how I was feeling without a long, drawn-out explanation. LGBTQIA+ people have been around forever, and learning about the rich history of my community was totally empowering and affirming. Social media was originally concocted to connect people, and when I first came out, the internet was great for not feeling alone.
Over time, the dopamine rush I got from seeing other queer people doing awesome things faded. Scrolling became monotonous, and instead of being happy for trans womxn who were killing it, I felt self-conscious and envious that I wasn’t as far along in my transition. I compared myself to people whose livelihood depended on their appearance (and whatever else it is that influencers do). Sufficed to say, the happy-feel-good chemicals went away, and checking Instagram became a source of dysphoria.
Social media makes me anxious and depressed. It elicits a feeling of hollowness and zaps all of my energy. I understand that it has become inextricable from every facet of society, and that OOYS could have a much broader reach if I started a TikTok channel, but what’s the point of trying to make life better for trans and enby kids if I don’t take care of myself?
3. Technical Issues
- I forgot my Instagram password.
- It’s been so long since I was on social media that I no longer know how to use it.
4. Lorde & Kivel
In 1984, Audre Lorde wrote an essay called “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” where she asserted that it is only by circumventing dominant systems of oppression that real change can happen. In her essay, Lorde addressed an audience of white feminists who expected her to explain her experiences of oppression as a Black lesbian woman. She asserted that the white (cis, straight, able-bodied, etc.) feminists’ expectations paralleled how “women…[were] called upon to stretch the gap of male ignorance and to [educate] men as to our existence and our needs.” Lorde goes on to explain that systems of oppression (patriarchy, ableism, xenophobia, etc.) cannot be destroyed from within, using the same tools that reinforce oppression, but must be challenged from outside the system. In this case, Lorde implored white feminists to do the heavy lifting on their own, instead of relying on the one Black lesbian scholar they knew to teach them about racism and homophobia.
Fifteen years later, Paul Kivel, a white writer and activist, rephrased Lorde’s argument into a concise essay about working outside of established systems (especially within the social services realm) to create change. I included Kivel here because I read his essay first (the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of which could be an entire discussion in itself), but the idea originated with Lorde.
Long story short, Out of Yer Shell sprang from the soil of Lorde and Kivel’s ideas. Trans & enby kids experience mental and physical health struggles, homelessness, substance abuse, and a myriad of other negative circumstances disproportionately compared to their cisgender peers, and there still aren’t many interventions or resources for alleviating those struggles. Social media…well, there’s a lot going on. Therefore, instead of battling with millions of other people and organizations for viewers’ attention, we’ve chosen to work outside the system, and keep OOYS contained to our webpage.
…and again, I have walks to go on and Drag Race to watch.
5. Real-World Community and Impact
The last two years have been a time of growing pains around the world: in the U.S., George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many other innocent Americans (predominantly BIPOC folx) were murdered by police officers, which caused our country to start contending with its history of systemic racism and oppression. The U.K. broke up with the European Union; Alexey Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition party, was attacked twice by Vladimir Putin and his government cronies; anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation popped up in all 50 states; and at least 190 people were killed by explosions at a port in Beirut. Chadwick Boseman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, hate crimes against AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) people rose dramatically, Trump was impeached, and the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down.
To my knowledge, Out of Yer Shell didn’t post about any of these events.
It’s not that we didn’t attend rallies, support Black-owned businesses, mourn the lives of those who died, or wear a mask; We totally did. We just didn’t post about it.
Because our OOYS community is built around word-of-mouth referrals, we communicate with a lot of folx before they visit us (if you’re here and we haven’t talked to you, please feel free to contact us). In these conversations and others that we have with friends and family, we talked about the injustice surrounding Breonna Taylor’s murder and how scared we were of a supreme court without RBG. We marveled at the transphobic laws coming out of Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, and a host of other states. We celebrated when Elliot Page came out and cringed every time Caitlyn Jenner opened her mouth.
Posting isn’t how we as an organization processed the last year, and that’s okay. One of the reasons we don’t post on social media is because we would rather have real world conversations with the people around us. In most cases (but not all), these conversations are more fruitful and give us an opportunity to process our feelings without the overwhelming anxiety of having to pick out the perfect hashtag. Nobody should have to write their thoughts on the internet to feel like their feelings are adequate.
You don’t have to post on social media to show that you care. I don’t post on social media for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s bad for my mental health and I have better things to do (like tasting soda flights or reading The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires—I have to return it to the library soon). This blog post is in no way intended to throw shade at people who use TikTok, Snapchat, or Twitter, but only to suggest that it’s not necessary for a fulfilling life.
That being said, if anybody wants to run our social media, let me know (better you than me)! Lolololol jk, my BFF, Jill.