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Social media, me and #metoo

October 27, 2017

This piece represents the opinion of the author.
Phoebe Nichols

Recently, many of my friends and peers have posted the hashtag “MeToo” on their Facebook pages. This hashtag makes a pretty compelling statement: sexual harassment and assault are still a long, long way from being preventable on Bowdoin’s campus or any place in general. I greatly respect the Bowdoin students who share their experiences of sexual violence and show support. I certainly would not critique the work that Tarana Burke—the original creator of the hashtag—and fellow activists do to help marginalized individuals.

So, why do I feel so uncomfortable with the idea of posting such a powerful and personal statement as a hashtag?

Of course many victims of sexual violence are choosing not to post for their own unique reasons, but my initial response to the hashtag was one of concern. I felt nervous, and that nervousness bothered me. Am I just trying to not be a “conformist” in a movement, even if it’s a very positive one? How could I be so judgmental?

It’s a bit more complicated than that. I was sexually assaulted in high school, and at that time I didn’t really know how to talk about it. I didn’t have the language for how I felt. I concluded that maybe I was “overreacting” to the situation, and, as a result, I decided it was better to just not discuss it at all. Being reserved wasn’t a novel thing for me. I grew up in a military family, so I moved often and didn’t have the time to make many close friendships.  However, at the same time, I wanted to try and fit in as much as possible, so the minute I got a Facebook account I became obsessed with personalizing it to the nth degree. I thought that Facebook was the best way for people to understand “me,” as a person.

However, when I got to Bowdoin, I realized that I now had the time to make close friends. I finally felt connected in a way that I never did with social media. This helped me come to terms with things that were long overdue. Having conversations with people, either one-on-one or in a group, helped me become more open and willing to discuss things I have gone through. Facebook became less of a necessary social tool and more of a way to keep up with people from high school or plan via group chat.

Now, granted, writing an Orient article about all of this is pretty close to posting “#MeToo” on Facebook. Additionally, posting the hashtag on Facebook does not mean that survivors are obligated to share the details of their experiences. But to me, it’s a matter of comfort. I want to open up to people in a way that I think is the most meaningful and on my own terms. To me, that medium will never be Facebook.


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