inclusion

Social media - You have more control than you think

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With social media it’s easy to forget that you can choose what you don’t see, but also, more importantly what you do see.

In recent weeks and in light of many conversations that are taking place about diversity and inclusion, I (I suspect like many others) have been reviewing the accounts that I interact with on social media. I was shocked to discover how homogenised my Instagram feed was at first. Even though I followed a diverse range of people, on closer examination I realised that the majority were very like me.

It’s certainly no excuse but it’s a fact of life that the internet reflects back to us how we most often see the world. Algorithms are very good at monitoring what it thinks we like and then giving us more of the same. So if we spend a lot of time commenting on pretty floral flat lays, or lovely skeins of hand dyed yarn, then that’s what it shows us more of.

Hence, my social media feed is often comprised of yarn, coffee and sometimes cats. There was a weird stage when Instagram kept insisting on showing me photos of those odd looking hairless cats. Heavens knows why - maybe it thought they needed a knitted sweater.

In recent weeks though I have been spending time purposely exploring new accounts from people with a diverse range of backgrounds (even some non-knitters) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the algorithm picks up on that.

As well as choosing what we do see though, we also have the ability to choose what not to engage with on social media and to choose where we direct our energies. Instagram is a wonderful place in so many ways but it’s use as a platform for meaningful social interaction is limited to say the least. Comments are difficult to moderate and it is all too easy for well meaning words to be taken out of context. I’m not entirely sure how best we can effect genuine societal change when it comes to diversity and inclusion but I’m fairly sure that liking a few posts, adding a few comments and following a few new accounts is not actually going to do that much. Much less is it going to help to shout at each other across a Mark Zuckerberg owned social media platform.

I’m increasingly conscious of the amount of time I spend on Instagram and have started to use the “time limit” feature to help me manage my time better. Far better sometimes, rather than getting dragged into online debate and drama is to actually put down my phone and do something in the real world, whether that’s finding out more about local charities that I can help with, spending time with my young boys helping them to find their own way in the world or spending time on my own reading and education.

I guess this is just a long-winded way of saying that if someone is “quiet” on Instagram or any other social media platform, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing anything. Conversely, just because you shout loudly on social media about a certain issue it doesn’t mean that translates to anything meaningful in the “real world”. Social media is all well and good but at the end of the day, surely it’s the little things we do every day, the small interactions we have and the baby steps we take every day towards being a better human, that actually count?

Knitting and Inclusion

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This post has been brewing in my mind for little while now. Random thoughts and experiences have swirled around but stubbornly refused to merge into a cohesive piece. I’m still not sure they are fully formed to be honest but now seems as good a time as any to get them out of my head and on to paper.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before and at length but the statement that “All knitters are lovely” has to be one of the biggest myths around. Yes, there are fabulous and wonderfully generous knitters out there. Knitters who give their time freely to help others and to share knowledge and experience. But knitters also represent a full cross section of society.

In short, knitters are human with all the faults and foibles that come along with that. If you talk to any group of knitters they will invariably say how welcoming and inclusive knitting is as a hobby, but scratch beneath the surface of this well meaning statement you’ll invariably find that groups of knitters can be anything but welcoming. Pretty much everyone can relate to an experience of being shunned by a cliquey Knit Night group for example, or been made to feel they aren’t one of the ‘cool kids’ on a Ravelry forum. It happens and it happens every day.

When people are recommending a group - either in real life or online they invariably say “Oh, everyone there is really lovely”, when in reality what they actually mean is “Everyone there is like me”.

In the Everyday Knitter FB group for example, I am known for calling out people when they start a post with “Hey ladies”. The idea that all knitters are automatically women just drives me nuts. And when you (gently) point out that the group has a significant number of men and non binary members, often it is met with anger or defensiveness. They generally insist they meant “no offence” but my point is always that it’s about inclusion and making everyone welcome in the group.

This issue has come to greater prominence in my mind after all the discussions centering around race and white privilege over on Instagram over the last few days. You can read more of the back story here and here. As the discussion unfolded, I like many other people who have benefited from white privilege realised that I had a lot of reading and learning to do.

Simply pick up a knitting magazine (with the notable exception of Pom Pom Quarterly) or attend a knitting show and it becomes obvious just how underrepresented people of colour are in our community. Whilst I had often noted it subconsciously, I was embarrassed to realise that I had never really challenged the reasons the lay behind it, nor had I questioned it further with folks within the industry.

Racism and discrimination is as rife in the knitting community as it is the general communities around us. That makes for very difficult and uncomfortable reading for many people, including me and it is clear that a great deal needs to be done to make the knitting community a genuinely more diverse and welcoming place to all knitters.

If, like me you are looking for a good place to start I can highly recommend the work of Layla F. Saad who has done amazing work in this area. And if you are looking to support and promote the work of POC within the fibre industry, do check out the Instagram profile of Marceline at @heybrownberry. In her Story highlights she is collecting a wealth of information on brilliantly talented fibre folk to follow.

Whether you love or hate the Instagram algorithm (mainly hate in my case) one thing it does tend to do is to reflect your own likes and preferences back to you. That means that if you mainly engage with the accounts of people ‘like you’ that means that in turn, only similar accounts to your own are suggested back to you. The more we change our behaviour by genuinely engaging with a more diverse range of people, then the more diverse our Instagram feeds become and hopefully the more welcoming our community becomes to knitters all of backgrounds.

I genuinely believe that the knitting community can do better and will do better in the future.