LGBTQ Social Influencers: Public Figures With Personal Messages

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From the Supreme Court’s milestone decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide to Caitlyn Jenner’s incredibly public transition, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities have rarely seen more positive attention. With the eyes of the world on the challenges these communities have faced and the recent strides they’ve made, take a look into how social media has played a part.

These traditionally marginalized communities are having their moment in the sun thanks to positive messages from many public figures, like Apple’s Tim Cook, the first Fortune 500 CEO to be openly gay. Social media has allowed many to express their support, and it has allowed influencers who had already found fame to announce their identification as part of one of these groups.

Social media influencers who might be a part of these communities are also important players beyond the social and civil rights challenges they face. Major brands work with them on campaigns that are not specifically linked to their identity as gay, lesbian or transgender.

Gigi Gorgeous is first and foremost a beauty blogger, sharing her tips and tricks to getting as gorgeous as her name implies. However, with her platform on YouTube and more than 2 million followers, Gigi’s posts can be personal and almost like diary entries. Notably, Gigi went through a transition from male to female while continuing to post, addressing her transition after the fact on her terms. Gigi shared videos detailing her surgeries and candidly shared how her experience really felt. Gigi is also working with Too Faced, a major cosmetic company, on an exclusive partnership, thanks to her beauty expertise.

Transgender, lesbian and gay social media influencers have often taken the opportunity to advocate for civil rights on their pages, either by joining movements like the It Gets Better Project, or sharing their own personal stories. Activism has certainly become an important component of many people’s social media experience.

Oriol Pamies is a prominent influencer who focuses on his work as a LGBT rights activist. Like many people, Oriol started using social media to connect with family and friends, but soon found that it would be a powerful tool to share a message he believed in.

He helped to found Moovz, a LGBT social network that aims to create a supportive and respectful global community. Oriol believes that “social media allows you to inspire, get inspired, support and get supported. When we show ourselves living our life freely on social media we can encourage other people that might be afraid of being true to themselves.”

Further, he says that he is frequently the recipient of “tons of messages from people around the world that are not living in an accepting environment,” and that “social media allows me having the possibility to help them out and make them feel better.”

Caitlyn Jenner broke records when she joined Twitter, surpassing even Barack Obama. Her new television series is also watched by a wide audience, and her public role is not lacking in commentary on LGBTQ issues. In the premiere episode of her show, Caitlyn visited with the family of a transgender teen who committed suicide, calling attention to an important issue with her position as a voice for the community.

The lesbian, gay and transgender communities are often lumped together into one under the LGBTQ label, but it is important to recognize their different challenges and assets. For brands that are looking to reach these communities, remember that the people who make up these groups are not solely defined by these identities, but by the work that they do.

Eric Dahan is the CEO and co-founder of InstaBrand, one of the leading mobile influencer platforms that connects brands with millions of people in an authentic and meaningful way across all social media channels.

Image courtesy of Gigi Gorgeous on Facebook.

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Public Grief: Responding to Tragedy on Social Media

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In the wake of the attacks in Paris, there has been an outpouring of anger and grief on social media. There has also been a lot of commentary about the form that those feelings have taken. Some question why everyone is so upset by the Paris attacks but not the explosions in Beirut? Why is there a greater reaction to the Paris attacks than to the terror attacks on Garissa University in Kenya in April?

Is it ok to respond to tragedy with anger? With fear? With compassion? There are two questions that underlie the commentary on the social media response to tragedy. The first is: How should we feel when tragedy strikes? And the second question is: How should we express those feelings?

Joshua Andrew wrote an article for The Atlantic about grieving and social media. In it he mostly talks about how we share our personal tragedies and how our friends respond. Then he goes on to describe how some people responded to the collapse of the Hotel Montana during the earthquake in Haiti.

“Suddenly, an online space typically reserved for jokes and self-promotion is soaked in the earnest rhetoric of condolence and spirituality as people request prayers and thoughts,” writes Andrew. “The transition feels strange and almost inappropriate. The easy snark and sarcasm that dominates comment-section discussion is replaced by promises of remembrance, but only for a moment, as presumably, the well-wishers then return to their regularly scheduled social media programming.”

“The key is that in critical moments people switch from ‘acting good’ (portraying an unrealistically successful digital persona) and seeking status to ‘being down’ and seeking warmth and affiliation,” Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology, told The Atlantic. “Users begin to acknowledge the greater community as something more than an affirmation indicated by a digital thumb. Focus shifts from a desire for an endorsement to a desire for support. Tragedy invites us to lay aside the ‘I’ of social media and embrace the ‘we.’”

Garry Hare, a professor of media psychology, suggests that sites like Facebook may alter the way we grieve, “In theory, the newspaper can cover a tragedy and you could write a letter to the editor or comment on the website, but in almost all cases its going through an editor. Someone is actually editing our emotional reactions to something. We’re learning that that this isn’t a very good use of time…the more editors there are the less real communication will take place. When something does happen that is a tragedy people know where they can go for an unedited reaction. And that is new in the world of communication.”

“It’s a little ironic that social media would lend itself to telling the truth about tragedy. We’re talking about a medium where the self is editable, and here we choose to use it to give voice to weakness,” writes Andrew.

And I wonder if that is the most appropriate way to express our emotions about a public tragedy, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Maybe that is the most human approach to grief.

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