Monday, May 11, 2015

Burn out is real, and it's not a sign of weakness ~Sevan

Social media is a powerful tool for the social justice advocate. Trans people can connect with one another, share issues, band together and get things done. For some of us, maybe even all of us (whether we recognize it or not) it becomes a horrible space where the work never ends, and friends, fun, family and social justice work all blend together. 

It sends the message that you should never stop working. This is a dangerous message. People need to be able to have safe places to relax and recharge. Often wonderful wise people face burn out and the movement loses those people, all their skills, knowledge and cooperation. We have to rebuild, train, connect and build new relationships. We constantly start over, but push and push for people work, attend events, research, read every article that gets shared by every single friend who shares all your same beliefs and advocates along side you.

An example. I created a Twitter account to follow musicians that I liked. The whole purpose was fun and relaxation. Twitter told all my Facebook friends that I had created a Twitter. Of course they wanted to add me, they *are* my friends, so I wanted to add them too! Quickly my twitter feed was so covered in angry trans issues, fights and encouragement to help remove trolls from Twitter to the point that I no longer go to Twitter at all. That is not to say that this issues that I was presented with on Twitter weren't important, but one only has so much time and so much energy.

We need to protect ourselves but also support others in our community. If we encourage one another to take care of themselves, our community becomes stronger and healthier. My request to those trans advocates is to consider who you're going to reach. Who reads you? Do they likely follow the same pages you follow? If so, they've probably already seen the article you're considering sharing. Not only can this be frustrating but depending on what the information is, it can be triggering and painful.

I know for myself, seeing article after article about trans people who have committed suicide hurts me deeply. I am experiencing secondary trauma, and I am not alone.

Here are some things that you can do to help build up the community, but still participate in sharing important information.

#1 Use trigger warnings, and consider not including the preview image. Pictures are bigger than words, so often a trigger image of a person who's passed away, or a person who appears grief stricken can be the first thing someone sees even if you use trigger warnings.

#2 Share your thoughts about the article, and then link the article in a comment, rather than in the body of your status or post.

#3 Pay attention when someone says they're down or struggling. Ask how you can help. Share things with them that helps you cope. Often times, people don't realize the level of stress they're under. We've gotten very good at ignoring our internal signals. Good friends can remind us to check in with that internal signal.

#4 Learn more about self care and what makes you tick. Share articles and images that lift your community up, in equal part to negative articles that are intended as a call to action.

#5 If you've seen an article more than two times, chances are, your friends have seen it too. Consider not sharing it.


Scarlett Lee said...

I think that this is relevant not only concerning trans issues, but other issues as well. Well thought out and very helpful. Sometimes, I don't quite have the words to express what I am going through, or how to reach out for help, but this took the words out of my heart. Thank you, Sevan. Bravo for such an awesome piece.

Sevan said...

Thanks for your kind words Scarlett! I'm glad that it spoke to you.