We live in a world where social media is an important part of our lives. Not being on the major social media platforms means that you miss out on all the juicy stories and most importantly, You don't get to interact and connect with the millions of people around the world. The human need to feel a connection goes beyond just likes and comments. No one likes to be alone and even if its just on a virtual platform, people want to feel that they are liked and cared for. The problem with social media is that just as it is a powerful tool that connects people, it can also be a means to cause harm.
People with disability deserve to be on social media just like everybody else. If they feel like they want to get loud and extra, they should definitely feel free to do so because it is their prerogative. The issue with disabled people being on social media is the conundrum of deciding whether or not to post about their disability.
Social media is unique because people you meet online draw conclusions about you based solely on the information you choose to share. The beauty of it is that you can be whoever you want to be and people that follow you will perceive that to be your true character. If you post Bible verses, we will see you as a spiritual and religious character, if you post about business trends and money, we will see you exactly that way.
Should a disabled person chose not to share that part of their lives, then no one would ever know that they had a disability. So then, to share or not to share?
Different people have they own different reasons as to why they do the things they do. Disability is a sensitive subject that is not always as black and white as it might seem. There is an emotional strain that is involved when you have a physical disability that everyone can see and have an opinion about. There are invisible disabilities that you wouldn't know existed unless the person themselves told you. A physical disability on the other hand, cannot be concealed. If you are a wheelchair user then that is what everyone sees when they look at you.
Some disabled people have reservations about posting photos of themselves or sharing any information that shows them as disabled. In most cases they only take passport sized photos that make them appear as normal as everyone else. The psychology behind deliberately choosing not to show that part of yourself can be explained in two ways; first, is you are perfectly okay with being disabled, you have fully accepted yourself but you do not want people to make biased judgements about you solely based on your profile picture. The second explanation might be the exact opposite, that you struggle to accept that you have a disability and you feel ashamed of posting full pictures because you are afraid that people might treat you the same way you treat yourself.
People go to great lengths because of their fear of being judged. Being judged is the most natural thing in the world. We make hundreds or even thousands of judgements everyday because that is how we were created; to use our five senses to make a judgement and come up with a reaction. You might just smell someone's perfume and conclude that they must be rich without even having to look at them. Thats a judgement.
Then there are those that are all out on social media, Serving post after post about themselves and wearing their disabilities on their sleeves for all to see. Are they better or worse than those that chose not to acknowledge their disabilities? Are they right or are they wrong? Vocal disabled people on social media are the most misunderstood because they are sometimes seen as attention seekers. Being active and vocal goes against the very stereotypes that have been set for disabled people and therefore some people are uncomfortable when they see a person with a disability doing normal things. To them, a physically challenged person should not take pictures that show their wheelchairs, crutches or amputated limbs. When they do, they judge them, tell them that they are seeking pity or attention.
Granted, there are persons with disability out there who are lost. They always present themselves in a manner that is questionable and uses their vulnerability to solicit attention from their followers. It is a bad habit that should not be encouraged.
In the end, the choice to share your disability or not on social media remains a personal choice. The reasons behind that choice however should contribute positively towards you living the best life possible. If you are a reserved person that prefers not to upload pictures of yourself on a wheelchair because you want to have normal unbiased interactions, so be it. If you are outgoing and you enjoy bringing to light the life of a disabled person in its truest form, be loud and be bold!
Brian Muchiri Waihenya