I’m worried — but not for reasons you might think.
Last month saw the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) release its first-ever Social Media Safety Index. As CEO Sarah Kate Ellis notes in the report’s press release, the original intention of the research was to grade five of the most popular social media platforms on safety and inclusion for queer people. When researchers realized their criteria would lead to every platform receiving a failing grade, they reworked the results into more of an industry report with recommendations for improvement.
The report is a call-to-arms to big tech, a public accountability maneuver backed by data. It’s a tried-and-true formula for GLAAD, having created similar structures for journalism and television, and historically it works — particularly when GLAAD measures year over year change.
My worry is that the tagline “no social media platform is safe for queer people” will be what sticks and gets decontextualized from all of this. Social media is unsafe, sure, and there’s the added side effect that too much screen time can change our brains.
But for queer people, particularly young people, apps and screen time are lifelines. They were my lifeline. Social media platforms and websites are where we find ourselves and learn about who we actually are in a world that otherwise censors or stereotypes our day-to-day lives.
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I had a secret no one could know
Flashback: It’s the year 2001. Queer As Folk and The L-Word are doing a one-two punch on Showtime, and incognito browser windows didn’t exist yet. I’m 13 and ridiculously gay — but no one knows it yet.
Things were dark if I’m being honest. Growing up in the rural midwest, I never saw queer people or interacted with queer culture. By the time I left for college in 2005, the only openly queer people I had ever encountered in person were…