Instragram and other social media means many of us live more open lives (Photo: Pixabay | rawpixel / 536 images | Public Domain)
Last week we ran an article about a man who was coming out on social media as a ‘submissive bottom.’
In doing so, he wanted to assert his authentic identity and challenge stereotypes around muscular, African-American gay men. He made the posting on Instagram, wearing a jockstrap, fully aware that members of his family might see it.
Tired of being told how he should and shouldn’t behave, and having experienced great homophobia at the hands of some of his family, it was an act of self-empowerment.
I admire his courage and desire to prompt conversation that could help others.
I’m not looking to share my own bedroom preferences with the world, but then I’ve not lived his life experiences. However, it did stir up thoughts I’ve had knocking around in the back of my mind around Instagram.
Your digital portrait
Some of these thoughts came into sharper focus over the weekend. I unexpectedly received a notification telling me an elderly aunt had begun to follow me on the platform.
I don’t post any lewd images on my Instagram account. The most naked you’ll find me on Instagram is a rare swimming trunks shot in Mexico. I’m not concerned from that angle.
However, I follow a lot of gay guys and do like a lot of their images. And some of those images are naked. And any cursory look at the images I ‘like’ will give a more thorough insight into my sexual preferences than a simple ‘I’m gay’.
I may not discuss the type of men who turn me on with my elderly relatives, but my Instagram makes it clear I like the bigger, thicker man. Is that something I wish to share with the wider world? Well, Instagram basically does that for me – and clearly as I’m sharing it here, I’ve decided I’m not all that bothered about others knowing.
That’s the thing about social media. We may be increasingly careful about what we post, but it’s the things we ‘like’ or comment upon that are just as revealing about our true selves. If not more so.
This can have potentially more serious consequences for those in parts of the world where it’s dangerous to be openly gay. Having to hide your true self in real life is one thing. Having to hide your true nature in the virtual world takes further energy.
Facebook owns Instagram
Instagram is now owned by Facebook, which has this week been involved in a scandal involving data harvesting . Interestingly, in words that he may come to regret in light of this week’s controversy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said back in 2010, privacy was no longer a ‘social norm’.
‘People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,’ Zuckerberg told an audience at a tech festival. ‘That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.’
To an extent, I agreed with that statement. I also appreciate Facebook now offers various tools to protect who sees the things you post (clearly not enough given the current controversy).
However, Instagram – a platform I actually favor – makes it much harder. Any one of my followers can, if inclined, see all the ‘thirsty’ images I like.
I know I’m far from alone. Facebook’s current scandal was prompted by gay whistleblower Christopher Wylie. Yesterday, to his dismay, he found his Instagram account suspended by the platform.
‘Downside to @facebook also banning me on @instagram is missing out on my daily dose of well curated food pics and thirst traps,’ he lamented on Twitter.
— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) March 19, 2018
Most of us follow ‘thirst traps’ on Instagram. If I don’t like people seeing what images I’ve liked, I either stop liking those images, block particular followers, or accept that’s the way it works. At the moment, after switching my account to private, I’m veering towards the last of those options.
And I’m still wavering over whether to block my dear old aunt.