As a social media manager, I spent most of 2016 plugged in and over-informed. Trump tweeted something stupid? I read it within 30 seconds.A one-night-stand from my sophomore year shared a Bernie meme? Ugh, that too. A celebrity passed away? I was the first to know, and I’m still not sure what the etiquette is if you’re in a meeting and no one else is aware yet that their beloved childhood celebrity has died. Continue reading
CW: threats of violence, encouragement of suicide and self-harm, gendered slurs, sexualized harassment
On Saturday morning, I woke up at 7am. I took a shower, got dressed, did my makeup, chugged a Diet Coke, and picked up two of my best friends. We swung through the Middletown Dunkin Donuts for coffee and breakfast, and then we drove to Connecticut College to attend its TEDx event. I paced back and forth in the speaker green room as my friends fiddled around on the piano and cracked jokes to keep me calm. My pulse was slow and I found myself less nervous than I expected to be. The day had a beautiful inevitability to it. A year to the day I had gone viral for the first time, I was about to give a talk about herpes stigma, the talk I’d been waiting to give for what felt like forever. I was ready. I was excited. And I had nearly canceled three days before. Continue reading
An odd thing happened this weekend: an idiot on Twitter really wanted my attention. I say idiot because this young gentleman truly seemed to be stupid rather than malicious in his persistent need to speak to me despite my obvious disinterest. This young gentleman joined Twitter just to communicate with me, a suggestion he denied despite the fact that he followed only myself and Ellen Degeneres. You see, in his eyes I was beautiful. I was attractive. He did not care that I had herpes, and he wanted me to know this. When I told him that his tweets were making me uncomfortable, he sent me many more of them. When I told him I would block him if he sent me one more message, he sent me a video of himself singing as an apology. I was unimpressed, so he continued to tweet at me, calling me fake and judgmental.
His most telling statement? “You’re not the person I saw on YouTube.” Continue reading
I get so pissed off when people rag on social media. You know that conversation, usually at a cocktail party (oh who am I kidding, I’m twenty-three and I go to cramped apartment parties or loud bars where I have to strain myself to reluctantly listen to sermons about modern technology), when someone you thought you liked starts talking about how social media is turning us all into automatons unable to relate to each other. Twitter, the end of empathy. Facebook, the death knell of human connection. Tumblr, the downfall of social justice activism. “I mean, who has time for it?” they ask, gesturing with their bottle of expensive and undrinkable Brooklyn Lager. “Who has the energy to count likes?”
I do, I almost say. Continue reading
UPDATE 4/21/2016: Although I will always stand by the contents of the letter below, I no longer feel comfortable endorsing the work of Rafaella Gunz going forward. While I wish her well, we have professional differences as activists and as writers. The headline of this post has been changed to reflect that.
No matter the circumstances, the sexual and digital harassment women receive in herpes support communities is unacceptable and must be taken seriously. We as a community have a responsibility to hold each other accountable for inappropriate behavior that makes marginalized individuals feel unsafe and unseen.
We are in solidarity with Rafaella Gunz. On December 18, 2015, a post written by Rafaella was published on the Guerrilla Feminism website. In it, Rafaella lays out the constant stream of sexual harassment that women are subjected to in coed support groups for people with herpes — in particular, one named Positively Kickin’ It. She also highlighted that moderators of the group did nothing to address the harassment experienced by its members, even when concerns were brought directly to them. As a result of this post, she has been personally attacked and doxxed by members of the herpes community. These attacks culminated in her Facebook account being suspended, which has shut her out of a conversation she initiated and effectively silenced her. Continue reading
This blog post is a little personal and a little petty, but sometimes that happens.
I interned with Cleis Press the summer after I graduated from college (June through August 2014, for those of you following along at home). Working for the biggest and baddest (but also indiest and scrappiest) erotica publishing house in the States had been a dream of mine since I picked up my first copy of their blockbuster Best Women’s Erotica series. Cleis books formed the backbone of my thesis on the feminist potential of erotica, and I wrote reviews of many of their titles in exchange for a free copy. Walking into Cleis on my first day was like walking into a candy store, the walls lined floor-to-ceiling with books on kink, sexual health, fantasy and activism. In between hours building Cleis’s Tumblr and drafting tweets to promote upcoming author events, I flipped through the pages of erotica collections and fantasized about seeing my name on the Table of Contents someday soon. I made incredible friends, discovered my love for social media, and connected with authors who I now consider mentors. It was an invaluable experience, which is great, considering the internship was unpaid and I blew through a ton of my savings to do it. Continue reading
Your Facebook comments have made me think. I’m not being facetious—whenever I read a comment from someone (usually a man) upset that rejecting someone who has an STI makes you a bad person, I wonder why you are so alarmed and defensive. When have I ever said that turning down someone herpes+ makes you a jerk, or a sexist, or an idiot? Where is that in the BuzzFeed article you just read? Where is that in my Tumblr post you’ve just reblogged with a snide note attached to it? My saying that I will not feel like less of a person because I have herpes and asserting that I’ve had a great sex life since getting diagnosed is not the same as condemning you for being frightened by such a prospect. I’m also not asking you to date me; I’m pretty set in that area.
“Up next on Buzzfeed, how rejecting someone with a STD makes you close-minded and insensitive lol”*
UPDATE 3/7/2016: Peeple has launched, with a new paid “truth license” that allows you to read hidden reviews to come soon. You can read my latest take here.
I work in social media. It is part of my job to stay up-to-date on the myriad new social networks that spring up like weeds every day. Some of them grow and evolve steadily like the cool, quirky nerd This.cm. Some inspire mobs of loathing and debate like the new mean girl on the block Peeple. Within a few hours of the Washington Post covering Peeple—a distinctly “what is the world coming to” app that allows you to rate and review people the way you would a restaurant—my Twitter feed was tearing it to shreds, and for good reason. Peeple is so riddled with flaws that you would think its creators had never experienced the Internet before… which they may not have, judging by their lack of familiarity with Twitter. But while Twitter was mocking Peeple and pointing out its similarity to a certain Community plot line, I was thinking about something very simple: how Peeple has the potential to ruin my life, if allowed to exist. Continue reading
The classic mantra of reading, writing and merely existing on the Internet is “Don’t read the comments.” Internet comments, and Facebook comments in particular, are widely discredited as a cesspool of nastiness and trolling. If the writer or subject of a given article is anyone other than a straight, white man, the comments are even worse. God forbid a post explicitly be about any sort of social justice topic—the comments on a post about bigotry inevitably prove its point.
I actually love Facebook comments. A big part of my job in social media is reading feedback on articles and talks in comment threads, and they can be insightful and even heartwarming. Whenever a publication shares a post by or about me on their Facebook page, I make sure to jump into the comments and introduce myself so that interested readers can find my official page more easily. Yes, sexist trolls and conservative assholes pop up to talk about what a gross slut I am. But I often find, regardless of what the publication is or how positively (and occasionally negatively) they wrote about me, strangers will defend me from these attacks. They share better information about how herpes works, answer the questions of others, offer their own stories, and thank me profusely for the work I am doing. Continue reading
This week I changed my profile picture on Facebook. I put up a photo my friend took of me on the staged red carpet at Tumblr’s Year in Review Party, in which I look sleek and confident and, dare I say it, pretty attractive. The ‘likes’ poured in, and then a friend commented, “You look like the definition of success tbh.” I immediately felt validated, and then a little embarrassed.
As a new media professional (also known as a pretentious social media intern), I think a lot about my presence on the Internet. My Twitter feed might be full of curse words, but for the most part I post on platforms with intention. It’s all part of this weird Ella Dawson brand that I’m cultivating, a more transparent version of the identity wrangling other post-grads are doing too. While some folks go on job interviews, update their LinkedIn profiles, and have depression-riddled existential crises (which I checked off my list while marooned in Berkeley), I negotiate how I want the world to see me by cultivating Ella 2.0 on the Internet. Social media is my résumé, my portfolio of humble brags, and my opportunity to figure out who I want to be. Continue reading