A friend recently commented that my Facebook posts and tweets have become a lot more, to use her words, ‘in your face’ than before. She said that she felt I was becoming a lot more vocal in championing causes I believed in or were directly affected by. She said I was becoming an online activist!
To me, an activist is someone who is out in the streets protesting against things, speaking out against that which they don’t agree, being very vocal and visual publically and possibly putting themselves in the path of those they oppose. People who I think of when the term activist is used mainly consist of historical figures such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Emily Pankhurst and Harvey Milk. Interestingly, there are no names of contemporary examples that spring instantly to mind. Not that there are not protests being held, arguments being put forwards and minds being changed all the time, it is just that perhaps because as the years have passed, people are more willing to accept a differing point of view without the need for mass protests – and I am talking within the last 15-20 years here.
Personally I have never been directly involved in any public demonstrations. The nearest I have ever got was when I attended Pride events, both in London and Manchester.
But I suppose online activism has taken the place, to some degree, of on the street activism, which may be another reason as to why I cannot name any modern day activists.
Anyway, back to my friend’s point; have I become an online activist without even realising it?
If you’d asked me a year ago I would not have said I was an activist, I would go so far as to say that I used to be the complete opposite of an activist, whatever that may be. I would not advocate anything to anyone and I wouldn’t even consider giving my opinion on a subject or even recommending anything to anyone other than my family and very close friends and even then, only when pushed! But after my friend’s comments I decided to look back over my by recent Facebook posts and tweets and see for myself.
What I found is that over the past year I have shared a range of online petitions, articles and videos on a range of areas including health, education, politics, LGBT+ issues, animal welfare, body image, World Aids Day, homelessness, mental illness and gender roles to name but a few!
Issues that affect me personally did indeed come up multiple times in my apparent online activism. I shared information to raise awareness about Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), something I live with, shared various YouTube videos about homophobic bullying, something I have experienced, as well as articles to do with body image, depression and anxiety, all things that either affect me personally or affect people close to me. I also started online discussions with friends about things I have strong opinions on such as why people should exercise their right to vote, the international refugee crisis and marriage equality.
From my little bit of research into my online activities over the past year, what I have found is that I actually I agree with my friend. I do post and tweet a lot about causes I believe in and I am doing it almost on a weekly basis. I have become some sort of, very low-level social media activist and I think the reason is that I am not afraid anymore.
I am not afraid anymore to let people know that I am gay and so will willingly share posts from Stonewall, videos about the sexuality and gender spectrums or campaigns against homophobic celebrities, politicians or companies.
I am not afraid to let people know that I have suffered from bullying and so will willingly share YouTube videos about standing up for the bullied and against bullies.
I am not afraid to talk about my issues with how I see my own body and will gladly try to educate people about the struggles people face on a daily basis when they look in the mirror.
I am not afraid to talk about my various health issues, including health issues that have, according to my doctors, brought me within weeks of killing me. I happily donate to various health charities and raise awareness of campaigns they may be having.
I am not afraid to talk about the fact I have huge confidence issues and how this affects me on a daily basis and that how my friends perceive me is not the complete me as I keep parts of myself hidden and protected!
I am not afraid to stand up and let my voice be heard.
And I believe it is all as a direct result of becoming more involved in YouTube and to a handful specific YouTubers in particular.
After watching YouTube channels like Shep689, SupDaily06 and TrentandLuke I was inspired at the end of 2014 to create a YouTube channel myself, where I would try to upload a video every week of 2015. I was inspired to focus my creative energies into making videos that would raise issues that my friends may not otherwise know about.
Since then, and through watching these specific YouTubers, I have discovered many other YouTubers whom I now watch on a regular basis. I have even met some of them this year, fangirled over them and, in my mind at least developed some sort of online, not quite friendships, more like acquaintanceships, but more than just a subscriber / fan relationship. Some of them know me by sight and know my name – not sure if it is in a good way or in a scary stalker way, the former I hope!
Because of YouTube, I joined an online support group, met some great people, one of whom is the editor of the online magazine that you are currently reading and I was offered this amazing opportunity for a regular column.
Because of YouTube, I have forced myself out of my comfort zones, gone places and done things that a year ago I wouldn’t have even of dreamed of doing as they would have scared the pants off me.
Because of YouTube, I have met some amazing people.
Because of YouTube my confidence, my self-worth, my self-belief has increased exponentially – don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go and a lot more to improve on, but I am at least going in the right direction.
Because of YouTube, I have become an online activist!
And I want to thank those people, those YouTubers, who have improved my life beyond anything they can imagine.
Will & RJ of ‘Shep689’ and ‘TheNotAdam’, Trent & Luke of ‘TrentandLuke’ and Vinny & Luke of ‘V-Squared’ who taught me gay relationships can be happy, healthy and, for want of a better word, normal.
Chris Thompson of ‘SupDaily06’ who taught me that with hard work and determination I have the ability to achieve the things I want to achieve.
And a whole host of LGBT+ YouTubers who have taught me that it is okay to be vulnerable and let people know about your weaknesses, but if you have good friends around you, you will always be protected and safe. These include Calum McSwiggan of ‘Calum McSwiggan’, Roland of ‘RolyUnGashaa’, Jamie of ‘TheLowDown’ and John of ‘JohnBirdMedia’ and Gary of ‘Gary C’.
They have all, in one way or another, made me feel better about myself.
Helped me to start to like and even begin to love myself.
Helped me accept who the essential me is and begin to be the me I want to be.
And I would like to thank them with every inch of my being because without this remote guidance, without the messages of hope, without the joy I get from their videos, I know for a fact I would still be the quiet guy who says little, lets people walk all over him and sits alone in his flat wondering where, when and how life went so wrong!
They have made me confident enough to say what I want to say loudly and proudly.
They have made more vocal and more ‘in your face’ with my views.
They have made me confident enough to be a social media activist and I am happy with that label.
I am a thinker, watcher, smiler, laugher, YouTube content creator, writer & part-time teacher!
My YouTube channel can be found at:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaPfRtDp5552wTwriVZ0_9g (Jay’s Jabberings).