Written by Marisa Tirado //
My Instagram and Facebook accounts intentionally exclude my collections of prickly feelings toward the government’s decisions or frustrations with Christianity’s “oops” moments. I’m among the many who are too often guilty of judging the hyper-political social media users, scrolling through their feeds thinking, “Really? Another passive aggressive HuffPost article?”
I can say I have observed the great tensions that inspire those posts. Yet as someone who is a vigorous wine-refiller and phone-checker when someone brings up Trump at the dinner table, I can’t blame the front-line marchers of the internet for being themselves. I have spent my social media life a bit two-faced: annoyed by the avid Politico-poster, but admiring from afar those who climb a slippery slope of links and posts in hopes to spread awareness and change the world one opinion at a time.
Media is a medium to define what is important to us. So how do we reflect on what we choose to be important enough to post–especially people (like me) who post mainly pictures instead of articles or status updates?
In the past few years, I’ve found myself in different media environments that each hold their own definitions of what is “important.” While working at a top 50 ad agency in Chicago, I watched my social media posts become more informed by what was trendy, cool, and flashy. When I began working there, my boss told me the agency would informally “own” my social media accounts for their promoting. Hashtag analytics and caption copy tests– purposed to generate the most likes–were a part of my daily tasks for the accounts I worked on, and these reflexes trickled into my personal posts. They became fake, overly curated–boastful, at times.
Escaping west a year later, I worked remotely for an NYC agency while tucked away in the Seattle evergreens. The company functioned as an international social media hub for travel grant competitions and creative storytelling posts, with a multi-platform community of more than a million followers. This was a step further from the ad agency, but only a step. While working for them, my view of social media was as a platform to be used only for travel highlights and artistic expression. I found my posts inclined toward a desire to be more aesthetically pleasing and whimsical than warm and human. While also working in youth ministry there in the Northwest, I found myself existing in a life that–at its heart and soul–was about real humans: what students were struggling with, overjoyed about, aspiring toward. My flashy commercial shoots and exchanges with world-known travelers turned into hospital visits for teenagers and a quiet house without cell service to come back to each night. My relationship with social media recentered to fit what I find most important: people’s relationships with their own stories. My posts celebrated the lessons I learned from students about appreciating life and nature.
This is how I discovered I was going to give a voice to the voiceless, and more specifically, to the stories we do not even think to acknowledge anymore.
Now, more than ever, I am being pushed out of my social media comfort zone. At the global media ministry where I currently work, my office culture is saturated with politically-savvy Christian co-workers who carry on deep and provocative discussions about the world multiple times a day. I’ve found myself considering the weight on my shoulders, wondering where my true role lies in this internet social justice sphere. Every day feels like a teeter-totter between belief and action within the media. Am I just an insecure, inwardly focused, and selfishly entitled person because I don’t string an IV from my Instagram story to CNN?
Despite the thread of jobs I’ve experienced and the questions they’ve raised about the role of social media, what I’ve always defined as “important” is equipping people with the resources to examine their emotions and their mental health– to own that their story is who they are and, by telling it, accepting it. Recently I recalled one of my old blogs from undergrad. I created an online blog and photography exhibit called The Fruit Project, in which I asked participants to answer the question “How is your heart?” by using fruit and tools as their medium. I discovered a deep longing to elevate the stories of those around me, and I found the most satisfying sweet spot as I embarked quietly, behind a camera, alongside 30 hearts’ journeys. The heart endures the crushing of dreams within the limitations society creates, the ache of lasting heartbreak, and the joys of those brief and beautiful bursts of peace and fulfillment.
Culture’s allergic reactions to these types of out-of-the-box projects–ones regarding raw emotions and vulnerable spotlights–is a sort of oppression, an oppression of the soul’s need for its story to be told. The ability for those stories to be told is one of the causes I fight for.
For the first time ever, I decided to participate in The Fruit Project. I added a post for the first time in three years, reflecting on past photographs of myself and creating a poem to commemorate my experience with it.
You might ask yourself, What would the next step in being more social-justice oriented in my social media look like? For me, it would look like voicing my current concerns: single women in leadership, the decline in poetry (a resource I believe can save people), Christians sucking at being loving and humble, writing an article like this, taking on more projects like The Fruit Project.
Marisa Tirado currently works in marketing for Christianity Today Magazine. She used to be a youth minister in Seattle and has worked for NYC’s Passion Passport as a social media consultant. She enjoys playing soccer with her rec league, writing poetry (https://emptyhandslifted.wordpress.com/), and rollerblading around Chicago on the weekends. Marisa tries to volunteer often at eclectic events such as film festivals and speech team competitions, and travels every 4 weeks — preferably to places with dear friends or prime camping spots. Read more about her story (https://marisatirado.com/).