Last month I took a week-long break from social media in honor of my grandmother’s birthday. My favorite Gemini would have been 90 years old this year! During my hiatus, I had the opportunity to unpack some of the reasons why I use social networks personally, and professionally. Today, I’d like to share with you what I learned from this process, as well as which platforms I dig the most.
The history of social networking runs parallel to the democratization of computer technology. The movement toward online interaction was widely popularized by AOL, where folks could create profiles, send and read electronic mail, and engage in real-time via chat rooms. Since 1995, most of the world has lived online, and later iterations of networks like Friendster, Myspace and Facebook quickly gained popularity—some surviving the ever-changing landscape of the world-wide web better than others. It seems that the advent of a multi-platform technology over the last decade has induced a multi-personified self. One person, business, or organization can strategically stratify, and have a presence in more than one place a time.
At best, I believe that engaged social networks have the ability to unite people, and give voice to the most marginalized among us. After all, it has allowed us to see the brutal lynching of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge, LA police on Tuesday. We witnessed the historic sit-in for gun control law in real-time. Last year we were glued to our Insta feeds as Devin Allen shared images from the front lines of the protests in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray. Indeed, the internet is a powerful tool when in the right hands, and when utilized for the purpose of bolstering our movements for liberation. As a farmer would place seeds close together in moist soil in order to protect, and help germinate, so too, might social media support the process of growth, and progress.
Finding social media platforms that resonate mostly deeply with you is key. If you’re like me, you want to be present in the spaces that inspire consciousness and community. Even though we might have similar goals, the places that feel most welcoming might differ. Allow me to share with you those spaces that I dig the most—in other words, my virtual chill spots…
Journal: Similar to a traditional blog, this is where long-form content is shared, such as essays, curations (or roundups), and audio/visual projects (mixtapes, interviews, etc.). I consider this space to be an online community center, in many ways. My journal is not just about sharing my ideas, but a place I hope others will be encouraged to gather, and share their ideas as well.
Instagram: IG is like the homie that I always want to hang with! It is such an inspiring tool. I am always excited to browse my feed for images by some of my favorite photographers, artists, and makers.
Tumblr: I came to this platform late in the game, but it has become one of my favorite spaces. I do think there are some similarities to Pinterest in terms of curated images. The unique aspect of this platform, to me, is the number of people of color who utilize this tool to share their work, and the work of other artists of color. I can usually count on Tumblr for diverse, and fresh inspiration.
Pinterest: This is the ultimate search engine for generating ideas (hence the name). I think it also has the potential to be more than a space where people save the things that they want to consume. A mentor of mine who runs a non-profit organization focused on youth and prison abolition uses her pin boards to share content related to this mission. There are at least of handful of other organizations that I admire who are using the platform in the same way. I would love to see this practice pick up more momentum, where justice movements are centralized in the conversation.
Spotify: Music is the universal language that brings folks together. I have a tradition of making mixes for my loved ones (a skill I learned from my father). Back in the day, I used to make mixed tapes. Eventually I moved on to CDs, and now Spotify allows me to keep the tradition alive! I like to listen to an album from start to finish, and this platform is a great tool to use before buying. I also get to learn about new artists in the process.
Newsletter: Although this is not technically a social media platform, newsletters are the OGs of social networking. As a former non-profit professional, I’ve written for numerous newsletters in the past, and it’s one of my favorite communication tools—I have a handful that I still receive, and love! There is something very intimate about sharing your email with someone, and this tool allows for more one-on-one connections to bloom.
No matter which platform(s) you decided to join, allow each to flow with your vision and needs. I hope you found this guide useful and supportive. I’d love for you to join me in any, or all of these spaces. Let me know where like to kick-it, too!