As we’ve seen in recent years, social media has the power to create tremendous change. With the click of a button, messages can reach millions. Social media can encourage and empower community involvement, reach marginalized populations and be a vital education tool.
It can also be used to divide.
Lately unity has been at a premium in the local LGBT community. That trend is not being helped by social media.
Many in the community have turned to digital channels like Facebook to address grievances with systemic community ills like racism, transphobia and sexism. Those conversations are vital and sorely needed.
But because these discussions are occurring online — with the relative cloak of anonymity and the conceptual distance afforded by social-media channels — many have devolved into name-calling, accusation-slinging, fruitless exchanges.
Social media has enabled people to share their ideas in an instant. But, as people who work in the press have learned, sometimes instantaneous isn’t always best — especially when such heated exchanges are happening in the full public sphere.
Attacking one another on social media is not going to lead to change.
Asking hard questions and confronting tough truths are necessary, both on macro and micro levels. But doing so from behind our computer screens with individual targets in our sights isn’t going to get us there.
There are very real and very significant divisions within the local LGBT community right now and, as our elders have said, such divisions have long been present. We need to take a cue from those elders, who didn’t have the option to use social media to address community concerns.
Social media can be powerful. But let’s make sure we’re actually using its power for good.