I show my ass on the internet. Private account, of course.
In a photo, my bare bottom glows under the sun in the fall woods my partner and I visited as a reprieve from weeks spent inside our basement apartment.
Pictured: My brown, round behind, black skinny jeans, black t-shirt, fall leaves, and tall trees.
Not pictured: My partner laughing and laughing and laughing.
"I could never," my partner says as I upload an image of me in red mesh lingerie to my social media account. I thirst trap for myself. I thirst trap for my future selves. Each visual is a celebration of my rolls, my belly, my skin. One photo is so close and clear that you can see the hairs between my eyebrows. You can even see my burgeoning mustache. Gender euphoria. I think it's sexy. My friends do too.
Cue the emojis! Flames, hearts, eyes, that one with the red face, a sweat drop and its tongue out. Add on some exclamation points to the comment. If my friends don't tell me I'm hot, are we even friends for real?
Look at me. Look. At. ME. Dopamine triggered with every notification. Social distancing means I can no longer hug my friends at the queer function, where all of us would be dressed in our gayest best. So, I'll settle for showing off online. A friend posts a nude to their finsta, I heart the post. Heart eyes emoji. Maybe I'll comment, “Dayumn, sib!” I don’t know what other queer communities are like, but in mine, we honor the selfie as sacred.
Pile on compliments. Beg for more.
My relationship with social media hasn’t always been positive. I’ve been active on social media since I joined Facebook at age 15 in 2006. Thirteen years later, my social anxiety motivated me to delete all my accounts. The delete option was buried under an array of settings; and once I selected DELETE, the social platforms left my accounts in limbo for several weeks "in case I return" before deleting them fully.
I was overwhelmed when I deleted my accounts, largely because I was navigating gossipy — at times mudslinging — spaces offline. The social justice spaces where I volunteered my time began to blur with the social justice nonprofits I worked in for my income. Tensions over money, credibility, respectability, who did the work versus who claimed to do the work, and more general interpersonal conflicts were ever-present. Hearsay was abundant. As I grew distrustful and uncertain about some of the people around me, I became wary about my social media posts, which were so often earnest and personal.
It was too much, so I opted out.
For several months, I didn't use social media. It felt like a cold shower on a hot day. I sent direct messages to my friends more often. Everything I documented was for my own pleasure. My social anxiety decreased. I slept better because I didn't spend as much time on my phone. Though every now and then, I felt distant from my community. I was used to seeing an abundance of queer folks on my feeds every day- their joys, their traumas, their butts. I missed asking for dry cleaner recommendations in the queer exchange. I missed sharing memes. I missed the affirmation and comfort that comes when someone resonates with what I said online. I missed connecting with people over shared experiences. I was hesitant to go back though.
Half a year after I deleted my accounts, I rejoined social media through an old Twitter account I created but never used. Several writers at a workshop I’d recently attended spoke of Twitter’s utility in the publishing industry and told me I had to participate.
At first, I posted rarely, mostly retweets. Slowly I shared a bit of myself. I mentioned my updated gender marker on my ID, posted pictures of the comics I was reading, and shared a selfie or two. I had strict rules for Twitter. No nudes. Nothing too personal. Nothing too "in the moment." Nothing I hadn't had much time to process before sharing.
Over time, though, I longed to break those rules. I witnessed other people share so much of themselves online. At times their openness made me cringe. Other times, it warmed me to see the beautiful vulnerability in destigmatizing issues so many of us faced. I was reminded of the moments after I shared something vulnerable of my own when someone would DM me to say, “thank you for sharing that, I’ve felt like I was the only one.” I was reminded of posting semi-nudes and having folks respond with how nice it was to see someone with a body like theirs.
I wanted to feel the pleasure of those moments again, but I didn’t want to be accessible to everyone. So I created a private account in January of 2020. I want to say I was purely motivated by something worthy, like the dearth of representation in mainstream media of a Black, queer, nonbinary body with back rolls and tummy hair. But truthfully, I just wanted to show my ass to my friends, the way I used to before I deleted my accounts.
At first, my mutuals were only my closest friends. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying loss of in-person community, I yearned to expand that circle. I missed people! A shock for my introverted self, but a truth nonetheless. I carefully curated an online gallery of my life, and invited in the folks I knew well enough to trust with say...pictures of my breasts in tight mesh. I realized that with the right boundaries, I could use social media in a way that didn't fuel social anxiety. My public Twitter could be a hallmark greeting card, while my other socials were an explicit sex-positive queer zine. It was the good side of socials. Connection.