Becoming Visible: Connecting to the World Through Social Media

social media

Extending a lifeline.

This is what social media did for me — during and after homelessness. I know it also does the same for the hundreds of homeless people who frequent, share, and seek comfort within our online support group. We Are Visible, or WAV, for short, is a Facebook group put into action by Invisible People. Before I found Mark, or Invisible People, the online world and social media was still very much a lifeline for me.

Before homeless was my reality, I was a college student, renting in Manhattan, experiencing the privileges of a scholarship and various grants that makes my now, Creative Writing degree, a reality. However, I did not know then the extent of how vicious a landlord could be. Especially a landlord who happened to own property in a neighborhood that is now popular and growing. Housed turned into not-housed rather quickly as my landlord doubled our rent. He made every attempt to get us out, including putting a hole in our living room wall, and turning off our utilities.

In these moments of terror, it was social media — but more importantly, real people, who came to my rescue — or at least genuinely tried to. It was on Reddit where I received dozens of replies about where I should go, what I should do, who I should complain to. I needed answers, and I got a lot of them, through individuals with lived experience. Although they were not lawyers or social workers, they were me, once, and were ultimately, on my side.

I guess, like many others, up against a tyrannical landlord, homelessness was unavoidable.

Social media became a lifeline when I needed it most.

It was later that I shared on Tumblr about the challenges I was up against — survival, shelter life, recovery, and more. And, it was through social media that I connected with people, all over the world. They were suddenly now listening to my story, they wanted to help, and asked to help, however they could.

Through Tumblr, a stranger sent me $20 when I needed to buy groceries. It was on Reddit that a stranger bought me socks off my Amazon wish list, and a pair of boots. On Discord, a social media platform for gamers, I found friends and allies. It’s where I found emotional comfort when I needed it most.

A year later, I was housed again. Now, I am in an apartment. I have a kind and generous landlord. Yet, some days, I’m unable to shake this darker past. The threat of returning to homelessness feels enormous. It feels very real and possible — so much more possible, than say, becoming suddenly rich! On those particular days, I still seek healing, comfort and strength.

And more often than not, I’m seeking a friend who understands, who has been there before, who shares in my fears and has lived in my reality. In our case, we‘ve made many friends who laugh, live, and cry with us every day in our support group. And, I think, that is why WAV exists — to make ourselves visible, to make ourselves seen, to remind ourselves that we are real, that we are here, that we matter, and we are so much more than what world might think of us.

Needless to say, it was through connections made on Reddit, Tumblr, Discord, Twitter, and eventually, in our Facebook support group, that I was seen, I was heard, I was saved.

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Jocelyn Figueroa

     

Jocelyn Figueroa studied Creative Non-Fiction at The New School and is a blogger and freelance writer based out of New York City. Formerly homeless, she launched her own blog discussing shelter life in New York City. Today, Jocelyn is on a mission to build connections through storytelling and creative writing.

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