So I read the Nick and Lins piece about naturism on Facebook the other day on Naked Wanderings when they lamented the many ironies of social media policies where simple nudity is forbidden, while all sorts of other atrocities somehow slip through the cracks. To be sure, navigating the internet in search of reliable information about people who are earnestly interested in social nudity is a slippery slope that will almost certainly lead your favorite search engine into various porn sites, while helping you find “new friends seeking benefits,” not to mention an unsolicited fan club willing to send you pictures of their genitalia. Who could have imagined any of this back before the digital age?
But here’s a thought for the day: What about all of us who feel so passionately about the naturist cause that we’ve barricaded ourselves in the naked cyber-fortress. That is, surrounding ourselves in naturist propaganda, if you will, until we actually lose perspective of how one’s quirky desire to doff his clothing is actually perceived in the greater context of the textile-loving masses.
Here on the eve of the 2018 mid-term election, I have grown acutely aware of how deeply people have aligned themselves to very specific ideologies. Of course, at the moment, most of the attention is on political perspectives and how those will influence the upcoming election, but it seems to me that the unintended consequence of social media is the emergence of so many factions who mainly pride themselves on their inability to understand the other side of the argument, regardless of what that argument is about.
What does that have to do with social nudity on the internet? Everything! As my blog has developed over the years, I’ve cultivated my own news-feed from other naturist bloggers, keeping a particularly keen eye out for those that are up-to-date and insightful for the greater naturist cause. (Clothesfree Life, Felicity’s Blog, and Naked Wanderings are regular go-to outlets on this front.) But over time, I have found Twitter, reddit, and Instagram also to be good sources of information when looking for news stories about the naturist cause, or finding a new place to explore during our next nakation. While the nudism and naturism boards on reddit are well moderated, it’s taken a bit of time and tweaking to develop a Twitter feed that’s not overrun by stuff I really wasn’t looking for, but even with the harsh policies regarding nudity on Facebook and Instagram, there’s no question that those two platforms reach a wider audience, and arguably, do more to bring naturism into mainstream consciousness than most of the others combined. In fact, I just read an article this morning about the naturist movement afoot in Australia where over 8500 photos have shown up on Instagram with the hashtag #getnakedaustrailia, which has started to bleed into mainstream media threads normalizing nudity for 20 and 30-somethings. That seems like progress.
But to my point…
I have spent so much time on naturist social media platforms that it’s difficult to imagine what I might find there that I would find shocking or offensive, including all that stuff that doesn’t belong on a naturist forum. That’s where the barricade thing takes hold! Begin each day with a fifteen minute dose of naked news, and after awhile, you no longer notice that anyone would go to social media with the expectation of seeing anything else? It’s a slightly different argument than becoming desensitized to nudity itself; it’s just that you don’t think it odd that there is casual nudity all over the internet, as one loses total perspective – the perspective that not only would my friends mark most of these threads NSFW, but may actually be downright offended.
“Offended? It’s just nudity!” we say.
Strangely enough, I have become most sensitive to this phenomenon while listening to several podcasts as people wager various opinions about the possible outcomes of the upcoming election. I thought two of these programs to be particularly thought-provoking: the first one that talked about the influence of “nationalist websites” on recent acts of violence, and the second that included an interview with a Russian journalist whose job is running a website known widely as an American news source. [Yes, you heard that right!] In the case of the latter, the news is “factual” and drawn from real sources, but carefully selected to elevate fear and despair among citizens of the U.S. of A. Each of these examples represent the barricades of social media, as we all sit by our glowing computer screens absorbing opinions we already embrace about “stuff we already know!”
Despite the fact that my political leanings are probably well defined by my podcast playlist, that’s not actually relevant to this post. What IS relevant, however, is that in 2018, we can easily barricade ourselves within an impenetrable fortress in a forever “lock-in” with others who think, see, and feel exactly the same way we do! How many studies have we all seen about lonely people who spend night after night surfing the web, looking for community or someone to talk to, whereas twenty years ago maybe they would have joined a bowling league, or a model train club, or a sports league at the YMCA in an effort to connect with other humans… Other humans that would have that one thing in common (bowling, model trains, or basketball) but would surely have differing opinions on the big ticket issues, like religion, politics, and even social nudity.
Bury yourself in the naturist communities of Twitter and Tumblr, and you will be inundated with memes and one-liners that relentlessly preach to the converted that nude is the new normal and the rest of the world just needs to deal with it. But the rest of the world is emphatically screaming at one another right now, making it clear that “We believe what we believe, and don’t even try to clutter my mind with an opposing perspective!”
I admit, when I think about the gravitas of promoting social nudity in comparison to some of the other pervasive causes out there on the internet right now, my default position is, “Pfff… my cause is harmless by comparison! Just let me go on nakation and soak up some Vitamin D.” But I think we – the naturists – are being unrealistic when we fail to acknowledge that some will be as deeply offended by our Twitter feeds as I would be by any number of social media sources crowding the airwaves right now spreading highly biased rhetoric that will most certainly shape the future of the human race.
Ironically, I think I have always thought of social nudity as a channel of tolerance, that in the best case would read something like this…
You don’t have to practice naturism, and I will respect you for that, but I hope you will return the favor by letting me enjoy total exposure at my local beach or on a forest walk.
But tolerance is not particularly in vogue at the moment. And while that may not be the best news for the naturist movement, it seems that should be the least of our worries when we think about the level of intolerance and single-mindedness that is gripping the minds and hearts of humans all over the planet right now.
At the risk of concluding with a message of cynicism, I offer you these immortal words of Kermit the Frog:
“Take a look above you.
Discover the view.
If you haven’t noticed, Please do. Please do. Please do.”
A shout-out the DeAnza Hot Springs in Jacumba, California for their most excellent memes included in this post. They convey a great message, and they run a beautiful operation in the high desert. You should grab a friend with opposing views and go for a naked walk in the high desert – maybe even take a moment to discuss something you don’t agree on!