Social Media is Actually Good: How Disabled People Can Stay Connected

Social Media is Actually Good: How Disabled People Can Stay Connected

by Grant Stoner

Social media is always a contentious topic. Conversations surrounding ownership, misinformation, and relatives who share one too many “Minion” memes are always at the forefront every time platforms are mentioned. Yet, for disabled individuals like me, social media is a powerful tool that lets us interact with the world.

With a physical disability like Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2, I’ve never been able to leave my comfort areas. My home and surrounding neighborhoods are familiar to me both with their relative distance to my medical equipment, as well as their overall accessibility. If I leave with family or friends to go see a movie, I can know with full confidence that the theater will be accessible. With social media, I can explore new areas, events, and interact with people from across the world, all within the confines of my home. For disabled individuals, social media is simultaneously a gateway and lifeline to the outside world. For me, social media allows me to perform my job as a disability reporter, maintain decade-long friendships, and even stay connected with my long-distance partner.

Social Media and Journalism

As a physically disabled reporter in the games industry, I am consistently covering games released by studios around the world. From California to Japan, I have had the privilege of speaking with developers to explore what makes their titles so accessible. These connections were all made possible through my interactions on platforms like X/Twitter. Every time a developer posts news or announcements, I can use my platform to connect with them and inquire about potential interviews or future updates. And as much as I would like to physically travel to these places, the overall cost, stress, and potential inaccessibility all pose too great of a risk. Thankfully, with social media, traveling is not a requirement.

Aside from having opportunities to highlight new accessible games, my platform on social media lets me directly connect with the individuals who benefit from these advancements. Disabled communities thrive on social media. Regardless of location, preferred system, or disability, social media lets disabled players celebrate accessibility wins, voice their concerns, and more importantly, foster communities. And it’s the perfect tool for someone that actively wants to directly give disabled individuals a microphone. My entire ethos as a disability reporter is to let my sources speak for themselves, rather than let others speak for them. Social media lets me consistently see what needs to be told, opinions that need to be shifted, and who can most effectively tell these stories.

Grant, using his wheelchair, is smiling next to his girlfriend who leans into him. They are in front of a tree with lights

Grant and his partner.

Social Media and Friendships

I grew up playing across varying consoles and systems. And as technology progressed to let players connect from around the world, I found some of the most fulfilling friendships I’ve ever had. My primary friend group, one that is affectionately referred to as ‘The Boys,’ was formed after a chance encounter with one of my best friends in a Call of Duty: World at War Nazi Zombies match. The hour-long game in 2009 soon transformed into regular calls on Xbox 360 party chats. Eventually, the two of us found more people looking to unwind after school and just play some games. Left 4 Dead 2, Borderlands, and especially Call of Duty became staples for us. And as we moved to new systems, the core group remained, even driving from across the country just to meet in person.

With Covid-19, all activities ceased to exist, except interactions on social media and in games. Since my friend group is primarily composed of people 

from across the United States, as well as several local friends, I never felt a sense of separation. Yes, I missed going to theaters and restaurants with people, but I always had access to ‘The Boys’ in some fashion. Whether just talking on Discord or actively playing games with each other, the isolation period of the pandemic was far more manageable because of social media.

Social Media and Relationships

I’ve already stated how social media lets me do my job as a disability reporter, and how it allows me to remain connected with friends despite distance, but it’s equally important with helping me to stay connected with my partner. My partner and I met on X/Twitter in 2021. Both of us are members of the disabled community, and we each have work within the games industry. She is a consultant specializing in cognitive accessibility, and I write articles on the work that consultants do. For years, we would support each other’s work, joke with each other about topics like Pokémon and the disabled experience, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company. In August 2023, we decided to be more than just friends, and it was all possible because of our years of friendship on social media.

Being in a transatlantic long-distance relationship is not easy. There is a five-hour time difference, unstable Internet, and schedules that can occasionally conflict with one another. Yet, our relationship is possible in large part due to our capability to continuously be in touch through multiple social media platforms. There isn’t a single day where we don’t connect in some fashion. Whether it’s sharing screenshots of our New York Times Connections scores, or sending each other music from our favorite artists, we are always speaking to each other in some fashion. And when we finally do reconnect in person after months of distance, there are no awkward moments or feelings of not understanding one another – all because of social media.

Social media certainly has its flaws. It can be used to promote hate, it can censor crucial forms of protest, and cause immense feelings of stress and anxiety with always having an online presence. Yet, it allows people from around the world, regardless of disability, class, race, gender, or sexuality to connect and find their communities. It creates job opportunities, long-lasting friendships, and fulfilling romantic relationships. I may complain about social media, but at the end of the day, I will always support its use and existence. After all, for people like me, it’s a perfect tool to experience the world beyond the four walls of my room.

Grant Stoner is a disabled journalist covering accessibility and the disabled perspective in the gaming industry. When not writing, he is usually screaming about Pokémon or his cat, Goomba, on social media.


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