I don’t typically rely on technology, or the internet, to boost my mood into positive states. I’m not drawn to pop culture in a way where I need to absorb everyone’s gossip and news.
In fact, I find much of my Facebook feed draining, negative, and filled with political opinions that have brought me to tears.
The New York Times’ article, “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price” details the ways in which we are rewired to be addicted to our devices. Scientists have found that technology provokes excitement and plays a role in how we respond to opportunities or incoming information.
However, even in darkness, there is a glimmer of light.
While I don’t necessarily rely on my notifications for happiness, I do find online community valuable for my emotional health. Somewhere in the shards of Facebook’s broken ethics and ridiculous rules are private groups that include empowerment, nudes, and all-encompassing beauty.
Digital networking is a large part of my job and as a writer, I need to share my work through social media to connect with people on a base level. Twitter has a great community of writers, Facebook has my IRL friends, and Instagram is still a sleek way to share any upcoming projects. What’s more is that these platforms connect me to people who I would never know otherwise or friends who have lost touch with my professional life.
For the majority of the time, I use social media as a way to expand my readership.
But, let’s step back a moment, shall we?
In the mid-2000s, I was an avid Xanga user. I blogged and detailed my life in an overly saturated and romantic light. The comment section was where my community lived. We applauded one another’s work, offered advice, and belonged to groups titled, “The Strokes Fan Club.” Those were my first internet buddies — my first ties to people who introduced me to feminism, punk rock, and Anais Nin.
Present day Xanga, for me, are my private Facebook groups.
Many of them were originally a nuisance or died out quickly. I would accept invites to groups but would never click on the notification. But after refining my invites and adjusting what my peak interests were, I have found a solid community on a generic social media platform — something that I did not expect.
I am a member of many, many writing Facebook groups.
They serve as space where writers and editors can post new job opportunities and calls for pitches. In the comment section, we discuss rates, experience, and how the writing job played out for other freelancers. It’s a community that’s vast, competitive, but still supportive. I owe several of my current freelancing gigs so these specific Facebook groups.
I was originally invited by an editor at Vagabond City Lit, where I am the Arts Editor. Connections, networking, and online friendships infiltrate my profession as a writer and editor, and luckily, it’s a very complementary area of work. Through word of mouth, I entered this rather expansive online community, and have found a plethora of writing gigs and editor information for future pitches and ideas.
The real juicy, awe-inspiring, outrageously empowering groups are my sexual health and sex-related groups.
One, an ode to living out your best hoe summer, and another, a more serious look at vaginismus, discuss all things sexual.
The vaginismus group I am affiliated with is more somber, as many individuals in the group are unable to have PIV intercourse due to an involuntary muscle spasm. However, when one of us does have successful intercourse, we gush and spill and detail our saga to a community who doesn’t judge or criticize. I first began writing about vaginismus after seeing an absence of information on health and women’s websites.
Struggling for seven years, I was fed up.
After I began writing about the taboo, and often embarrassing topic, my email inbox was flooded with women reaching out to me about similar issues.
Eventually, I made a connection with another writer who invited me into the vaginismus group to give my personal insight into my own personal experience. Since vaginismus is an ignored and often misunderstood diagnosis, the group is vital for many of us members. Just knowing that we aren’t alone and suffering in silence is pertinent to our emotional and mental well-being.
Another group where I am the most active is a sexual summer group that encourages stories, thoughts, photos, and accepts all genders, identities, and preferences. This group has been monumental in my overall love for myself, my friends, and sexual liberation.
I first heard about this group from a friend who decided that I “needed to be in it.”
It may sound simple enough, but the voices within this group are overwhelmingly encouraging, leading me to a new understanding of optimism, kinks, and affirmation. Living in a big city, like Chicago, we have many venues that support body positivity and reinforce safe spaces.
However, the place where I’ve felt the safest is this particular Facebook group.
Many people in the group are strangers, some are not.
My friends and I share sexy images of ourselves, videos, GIFs — anything that we find appealing for ourselves without the heteronormative male gaze. Sharing nude images on a platform that exists online is exhilarating. Advice, sexual risks, and stories of embarrassment also fill the feed.
Vulnerability is valued within the online space — it’s incredible to see the encouragement that strangers give one another and the connections that are made.
The summer-fling sex Facebook group has become a permanent group.
Moreover, the founder of the community started a website affiliated and inspired by the stories told on the Facebook thread. I go to events around the city, see someone I recognize from the group, and introduce myself as someone “from the hoe Facebook group.” It’s become a bond and immediate friendship between virtual strangers.
Fellow Tempest writer, Alicia Soller explained in their article that they wanted to “stay informed and connected,” but to do so they needed technology. While disconnecting has its time and place, my Facebook groups have so positively enhanced my well-being, in terms of myself and my relationships, that I can’t imagine completely abandoning them at this point in my life.
While these groups are fleeting and impermanent, they are shaping me into a more confident and vocal lover, friend, and overall better person.
These groups are not substituting my real life friendships and connections. They are simply empowering me to converse with confidence. Moreover, social media in today’s climate can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. These Facebook groups are the reason I log on to the social media platform.
Everyone else’s statuses are noise until I receive a notification from a thoughtful, interesting, and impactful text or image within my private groups.
My advice? Seek out those online communities.
Find your people, find your voice, share a nude or two, and carry on.