If you’ve ever participated in unconscious bias training (putting aside any debate as to its effectiveness), you might have been asked about your closest contacts. The people you trust most. And then asked to consider how diverse they are in comparison to your race, ethnicity, age, ability, background, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Often these exercises are surprisingly unsurprising – we surround ourselves with people who look, sound and live like us.
Familiarity equals comfort, safety and security.
There’s a perceived strength in numbers and similarity.
But these exercises are intended to draw us out of our comfort zones. Out of our familiar spaces and into more exciting, expansive and unknown places of connection and understanding. Into a place where we can appreciate and celebrate diversity as a concept, even if we don’t quite live it in practice.
It can be difficult to suddenly break out of our friendship groups and make new connections – and arguably hard to do this sensitively, without appearing tokenistic in choosing new acquaintances! One way we can do this more subtly and consistently is by diversifying our social media feed – choosing to follow people who do not look, live or think like us. People who may challenge us and make us uncomfortable. Who may hold up a mirror to us and also show us another way. Or at the very least, remind us that there are other perspectives on the world out there other than our own direct lived experience.
Some inspiring Irish examples I’ve come across include:
- The Struggle Is Wheel – sharing, highlighting & calling out accessibility in Ireland, or the lack thereof!
- Rosemarie Maughan – writer, speaker and activist member of the Traveller Community, highlighting issues of injustice and inequality in Ireland.
- Diane Ihirwe – co-founder of the Roots in Africa-Ireland network, writer, speaker, social worker and occasional lecturer, Diane speaks out on issues of race and racism in an Irish context – calling for the abolition of Direct Provision, and naming the experience of living and being Black in Ireland.
And there are many more outside of Ireland:
- Jeffrey Marsh – their pronouns are they/them, and they are a non-binary writer, activist and social media personality, regularly sharing guidance and learning on gender identity and gender expression in various creative forms.
- Cathy Reay Writes – as her bio states, Cathy is a “disabled queer polyam writer on disability justice, sex & dating, single motherhood, skincare.” She not only speaks of her own experiences, but also shares her challenges and learning as a mother of two.
- Nova Reid – anti-racism educator, activist and TEDx speaker (Not all superheroes wear capes), and author of The Good Ally. You can learn all about her anti-racism resources here, follow her on Instagram @novareidofficial, and read her article in Stylist Magazine on How it feels to be a black woman teaching anti-racism courses right now.
You can review and curate your feed repeatedly over time to keep it fresh and diverse. Sheree Atcheson, multi-award winning Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Executive and author of Demanding More, recommends doing this exercise regularly – you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIN too.
So, the next time you find yourself scrolling mindlessly on social media platforms, take a moment to reflect and diversify your feed. And, if you’re not already doing so, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I’ll do my best to keep my feed fresh!