“Let’s please not get lost in another one of these endless debates about who means what when they’re doing what, or who is disrespecting whom.
Instead, let’s respect…
Let’s use our platforms, and take this day, to talk about how we can be louder than all of this silence — and quieter than all of this noise.”
– STEPHEN CURRY FOR THE PLAYERS TRIBUNE.
I follow a few Facebook groups which focus on connecting internet based creators, who some call influencers, with one another. 99.9% of the time, I never look at the posts in group, but the other day – one caught my eye.
It was a post, by someone who posed a very thought-provoking question, it was basically
“If Instagram went away tomorrow, would you still have an influence or be an influencer?”
I found this to be a fundamental question – and one that I think needs to be reoccurring, because it helps us to find our why.
And in a role like social media influencing, a why is something you need, it can be personal, private, small or big, but in my opinion – your why is the driving force, without it, you may as well start endorsing all the detox tea you can find.
The thread of comments in response to the question varied, most had answers that said, yes they would, others answered with something along the lines of, “I have thousands of likes on Facebook anyway so it wouldn’t matter to me”
They perhaps didn’t look at the question as deeply as I, although this is a valid answer.
Everybody has a different why.
Mine is so I can go to the bathroom.
Let me explain.
I got my first job, which I have now left in order to go to University and study both law and communications . I loved the people, I loved and learned so much in the job.
But I couldn’t use the bathroom, because an accessible one, was not built. That’s not the fault of my employer, or the people whom they share the offices with, but however long ago when the offices were being built, during the design process, I was not considered, during construction, I was not considered.
I don’t mean “I” as in me singularly, I mean, people who use wheelchairs, people who have access needs.
Why was that?
Why wasn’t I considered? Was it because people didn’t think disabled people would be at an office or was it simply a case of disability and diversity didn’t cross the mind of a team of builders.
I suspect a combination of the two.
You see, without visibility, most things perish – a movement depends on being seen, without active advocacy something as simple as a loo mightn’t be built.
The lack of a disabled bathroom meant that I had to go to a public bathroom, one day early on in my job I pissed my pants, that was great. I’m not telling you this so you can go “ooo” that’s sad, or feel sorry for me.
My point is that everyday, I used the public bathroom, everyday, I turned up and did the best work I could, I excelled, because I chose to.
The lack of something didn’t stop me. A construction oversight, that was not the fault of anyone in that office, but simply an outcome of lack of education, was not going to limit me.
I was going to be there.
I have to work three times as hard, as anyone else in order to get to the same place, to get the same opportunity, but I do. I do it.
I have made a commitment to myself, to work hard, to break the silence, but also be louder than the noise – exactly like that excerpt above by Stephen Curry.
I do that, by using media to get a voice out there, but I also do that, by trying my best to break down stereotypes, because a distant family member said to me at Christmas that he prays for me everyday, that I can walk.
Heads up bro, my life wouldn’t be better, if that was the case. I might be able to get into the bathrooms anywhere I want, if I could walk, but the obstacles I face only reinforce the importance of showing up.
Holding yourself accountable, by not allowing yourself to give in. That’s how we be louder than the noise.
The noise is a number of likes on a photo, the noise is people who feel sorry for you or think you can’t do something you want to do, the noise is things you think matter, that fundamentally do not.
Breaking the noise is coming back to your why.
For me, my why is because I want to go to the bathroom.
Meaning that, when I eventually become a top lawyer, or when I eventually look back at the path I have created, I want to be able to look back and say that telling my story shifted attitudes.
If I can make one architect think about accessibility in a greater way, then I could help make hundreds of buildings accessible.
If I can make one brand think about representation, then I can help millions of young children feel more confident in who they are and show brands and companies that an inclusive marketing scheme is not a way forward, it’s the only way.
If I can show one person, that sympathy and pity is useless, because no matter what, if you want it enough, you always show up – and succeed. Then I truly believe we can change a generation.
I tell my story online as a [very small] influencer and for me that means doing it everyday in every action.
And it means taking things in your stride, like the fact that there was no bathroom, because I know eventually, that for little girls in the future, who are diverse in any matter, this won’t be their reality, they will have access to every loo they want to get into – and every other building, career, industry or place, I know this will be the case, because I will be a part of making that a reality.
By showing up. I challenge you to do the same.
You change things, by showing up.
I believe that you influence, by breaking the silence and being louder than the noise, all the time, Instagram is one tool which allows this .
We can all do that, be loud, break the silence. Thank you for helping me do that.