Karina Lafayette – February 24th 2023
If there’s one thing I learned during my Saturn Return, it’s I’ll never fit in, and that’s absolutely okay, because neither do a lot of people. A lot of voices aren’t counted in the world of social media and even beyond it, and what does Nina Simone say? “You’ve got to learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served.” But to put her idea further, you have to build your own table, and make sure that the people sitting there genuinely are meant to be there. And that’s what I’m doing with my brand new social media space. I’m building a table especially for those who don’t have a seat at the others. And I’m not doing this to be rebellious or make a statement, I’m really doing this to prove that social media can be done properly, with feeling. What started as an idea for a space for artists and astrology lovers, became more.
One thing that’s always stood out to me when it comes to social media is its aesthetic. Haven’t you noticed? Everything is blue, and grey. This concept of neutrality was designed to attract as many people as possible, which is great at first, until you consider what it really means: it erases diversity. There’s this idea that we mustn’t address our differences to avoid rocking the boat, because that’s dangerous. It disrupts the harmony of posting, sharing and liking, and pushes us to think critically on the content we consume and create.
Well I’ve never been the neutral type. I’ve ended friendships and even connections to family members over a silent agreement to being neutral. Yes, to some extent, we need to give people grace, but in situations where there’s an elephant in the room and people try to decorate that elephant with shiny objects, this creates a culture of conflict avoidance, which then leads to either of two things: passive-aggressiveness or censorship.
For example, on social media, you might notice people typ|ng c@pt|ons l|ke th|s. This is one way to avoid being flagged or banned with certain words, and the irony is often these words aren’t actually offensive, it’s what they represent. Usually people have to do this when making posts about subjects like abuse, trauma, or social issues. You know, anything that reminds the algorithm that we don’t have a perfect world where everyone is a flawless and tanned influencer. And no hate to people who work as influencers, it’s just that I like my feed filled with people I actually follow already.
Social media as an introvert and artist used to be my happy place, because it’s the easiest way to connect and express myself. Till it wasn’t, and I had to carefully curate each post based on what would be the most tolerable, most “like”-able and least likely to get muted. It’s easy to say we shouldn’t take the internet seriously, but whether we want this or not, it’s a huge part of our lives, so we have no choice to make it better.
One thing that’s been lacking on social media is how we go about people who don’t fit into a specific box. I get it, it’s hard to market or share if you’re someone who’s passionate about a million and one things, but it’s even harder to put your work out there if you’re an artist since obviously, most artists enjoy more than one skill. It’s also hard sometimes for those who love spiritual topics like astrology because to an extent, there’s still a certain taboo. You could imagine how much harder this gets on platforms that thrive on stereotypes and niches. As someone who’s both an artist and an astrologer, of course I thought of you, but let’s not gatekeep this space either. We know what that feels like.
This is where that new platform comes in. It’s called Persephone’s Forum, and while initially it was going to be just a forum added onto my main website, I decided to take it a step further, by making it into its own social media website. You can add friends, chat, and post on an activity wall as expected, but… values are key here. You can even get verified, as long as you show that your account name is what you typically use online. More importantly, you don’t have to walk on eggshells anytime you post. As long as you aren’t making remarks that are racist, sexist, homophobic, or show any type of discrimination, and you don’t bully people, you’ll be welcome. Sounds like the obvious, right?
Actually that’s another thing I felt was lacking in mainstream social media, the inability or even refusal, to draw a difference between self-expression and talking to down to others. It just shows the privileged position of the people who run these spaces, when they’ll ignore blatant discrimination, but will gladly ban someone just for saying something about Black Lives Matter or women’s issues, or even for mild swearing. And I get it, sometimes kids are online, but there’s only so much pleasing everyone. At some point, we need every adult to take accountability. If it’s more important to make extra profit with certain business partners than to do the right thing, is your business actually that social? If companies like Ben and Jerry’s can go about raising awareness on social causes and still make money, then the issue isn’t reputation, it’s about priorities, and those like Zuckerberg seem to be picking the wrong ones.
Going back to the point of encouraging neutrality, I think it’s just another way of saying who has a voice and who doesn’t. Because who decides what that looks like? Beyond the obvious like religion, sex, and politics, are we supposed to avoid every topic that brings up some emotion? There’s something very patriarchal in telling us that we have to swallow our emotions and just buy whatever products come up in suggested pages or late night scrolls, or to do another little dance vid. The idea that emotional posts and videos aren’t likely to get pushed for views, says a lot about where we stand as a people.
Then again, it’s not hard to see that in a modern capitalist society, your value as a person is measured online by how many people like you, how conventially attractive you are, and if you have something they want to buy or at least, consume. If you aren’t likeable in an easy way and aren’t here to self-promote, then you’re seen as just taking up space. “Too much. Too disruptive. Too emotional.” Whatever. And let me make it clear, you have just as much a right to take up space as anyone else- at least you do at Persephone’s.
Never in my life did I even imagine creating my own platform, but in hindsight, it was bound to happen. I’ve been on almost every version of social media since 2006, and in university, my friends were a group of guys from the engineering department, so most of our conversations revolved around computers and software. Despite all this, I was studying in film but didn’t fit into that department any more than the engineering department. And if there’s one person in tech I admire for being a misfit too, it’s Steve Jobs, despite having no interest in Apple products.
Persephone’s Forum is born in a time when a lot of world events are happening, and people need a safe space. It’s here at a time where creators have to avoid posting certain pictures to prevent being shadowbanned for nudity, when there’s no actual nudity there. It’s born at a time where Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook/Meta, announced that he would start charging for the blue checkmark, which let’s be real, was initially a symbol of privilege anyway since only famous people seem to get it. It also comes at a time where Elon Musk bought Twitter, only to destroy it slowly from the inside. It also comes at a time where more than ever people are looking for ways to just be heard.
At one point, social media was the place where you could reconnect with an old friend or even just learn HOW to connect. In 2023, it’s become a place where the rich flaunt their Gucci purses and latest vacations in front of millions of followers who most likely are struggling to feed their families. It’s become a place where class is what gets you up there, unless you’re lucky, or patient enough to post incessantly every day. Not to mention scrolling feels like you’re mindlessly absorbing content, when the whole point is to be social. Now it’s just… media. I’d like to change that in some way.
Just over ten years ago, owning a social media platform was revolutionary, but these days, it’s a part of our everyday lives, which means it’s no longer enough to wow people with new emojis or life-like filters, or talks of virtual reality. These days, you have to have values and integrity. You have to show others that their voices are heard, and one thing I learned is that to the people who’ve run the show till now, we aren’t heard. That’s why I did something.
In all honesty, how can you expect diversity from mainstream platforms anyway, when they’re predominantly founded and owned by white men? Aside from Zhang Yiming, the founder of Tiktok, and Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Meta, and of course if you want to count Whitney Wolfe Heard, the founder of dating app Bumble, there’s not much more representation. Black-owned apps TrueSo and MelaninPeople are gaining traction, but have yet to really be put in the spotlight.
Even when it comes to the aesthetic for Persephone’s Forum, there’s no blue or grey. It’s classic and elegant, but also practical, just like the Greek Goddess. It reflects what’s possible when a person takes something into their own hands. And like Persephone leaving the Underworld, it reflects a bit of hope.
The idea for Persephone’s Forum started out as really being intended for people who are artists, or who just love the arts, for people who are astrologers or who just love astrology, but I don’t like fences, I like bridges. Think of it as more of a space where you can be… yourself, whatever that means. Without any algorithm. Without any influencers (sorry not sorry). And especially without darn crummy eggshells. Also, hopefully without bots either, because those can be a pain in the #ss, and the work will be put in to keep it that way longterm.
And if I’m being honest, I don’t expect Persephone’s Forum to change the whole world. If ever it does change something, that would be amazing, but my priority is to simply keep it true to who I am, and to who a lot of other people are. It isn’t reinventing the wheel, it’s just showing off the parts that truly matter. And what we’ve been seeing lately, ain’t it. Maybe for some, but for the rest of us, we’ll be over here. Where we can be who we are, not who they want us to be.
Register for Persephone’s Forum at persephonesforum.com. The Queen of the Underworld welcomes you.
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