Why I’m Proud of Social Media

What does it mean to be social? In the digital age, how we interact with others has changed in many ways, but the root of socialization has stayed the same – we all need and want to have company. Maybe not every day (alone time is important), but having social connections is vital to a fulfilling life. For disabled people, building relationships with others was and is not always easy because of institutionalization and lack of access to community living, general ableism, and disabilities that make in-person socialization difficult.

Then in comes social media, changing things entirely.

Of course, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and similar platforms come with their own baggage like trolling and cyber bullying. But the positive influence they have on my life and the lives of millions of others has been a saving grace. Being able to connect with other disabled people online means we can offer advice and support when facing ableism or health issues. It means we can still engage with others when an illness has us in bed for long hours. And it means we can show solidarity through advocacy in a more accessible way.

I have learned so much about myself and others just from interacting online; my circle of friends continues to grow.

Society often shames folks for using social media (usually on social media, which is at least humorous), but for disabled people, this is often how we get out of the house when we can’t go out. Social media makes my tiny bedroom feel like a crowded party when I get together with my friends online. Social media isn’t perfect, but neither are in-person communities – we can only continue to improve them. And to improve them, we first have to improve our offline world.

While the internet opens socialization to many, it’s also important to note that disabled people still need in-person community supports and transportation. We still like going out to the movies, restaurants, concerts, and celebrations. We still must go out for doctor’s appointments and food shopping and other chores. Social media is an outlet, but it can’t be the only one.

As we celebrate disability pride month, I want people to understand the importance of online communities and how proud I am that we’ve built these networks, especially for disabled people. Seeing people with similar experiences come together through hashtags, making videos, and sharing our stories is incredibly powerful.  

Erin Hawley is the Digital Content Producer for Easterseals Thrive, an online support network for young women with disabilities. If you would like to learn more about this program, visit our website or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


 

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