It was a hot summer day in 2014. After months of brainstorming for ways to advocate for folks with hearing loss, I was ready to take a big leap. But as an introvert, reaching out to strangers was unnerving. A bit daunting for sure. Just to be clear, I’m usually fine with one-on-one interactions.
It was a hot summer day in 2014. After months of brainstorming for ways to advocate for folks with hearing loss, I was ready to take a big leap.
But as an introvert, reaching out to strangers was unnerving. A bit daunting for sure.
Just to be clear, I’m usually fine with one-on-one interactions. Small talk can be tedious for introverts, but if the topic of conversation is something we adore, we could talk your ears off….All.Week.Long.
Being an introvert is cool with me. There are lots of positives.
Taking the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test indicated I was a solid introvert. But…but I will confess, the test revealed that my personality type includes one little “quirky” characteristic.
The quirk in my personality type, as researched by Meyers Briggs, is that even as an introvert I have the capacity to behave in an extroverted manner if circumstances require it.
This would explain how I was able to work in marketing with sales folks who are often very energetic and smart in their personal interactions. Yet, I was able to stand toe-to-toe with the best of them – and during the pinnacle of my marketing career, I developed training sessions to teach our sales reps in Florida how to use the internet to research clients, industries, and the economy.
We introverts often step out of our comfort zone if we are determined to make something happen.
But in 2014, I needed a confidence boost. My hearing loss had destroyed my courage for a few months. So, to step up and begin to advocate took tremendous effort.
How would I raise awareness and stay in my comfort zone? Where do I start? How do I start?
I’d been traveling around Central Florida attending seminars and hearing loss support groups.
I’d searched online for ideas. But nothing clicked. Nothing felt like a sustainable channel for me to use my efforts and energy to raise awareness.
That hot summer day, I opened my laptop and typed in: w w w dot Twitter dot com.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “now I need to sign up and decide my Twitter handle, my name for my account.”
Drawing from my old marketing days, the name came very quickly. Keep it simple, you know?
So I wanted to begin advocating for hearing loops. After experiencing firsthand at a seminar presented by Dr. Juliette Sterkens, I was a big fan. Hearing loops help hard of hearing folks (like me) hear better in venues that are too noisy for us. We want to hear the person speaking, and extraneous noise interferes with that.
Hearing loops can be found in churches, schools, courts of law, taxi cabs, museums, grocery stores and the list goes on. Anywhere where the big echoey environmental sounds are overwhelming. My living room at home now sports a hearing loop. (big grin) It is fantastic, as the TV sound can be muted so I don’t bother anyone else…the TV or stereo sound goes straight to my ears via my two hearing aids.
Therefore, my Twitter name must be @LoopAdvocate !
There it is. Ha-ha. I did it. Now to sign up for my account. And I did it. Easy enough.
Then I clicked on my account page to create my very first tweet. The cursor was blinking…you know, just waiting on me to type a few letters. (blink, blink, blink)
That little blinking cursor I’ve never noticed before…it sat there mocking me. “What? At a loss for words now?” it chimed. (Ugh)
I was still. Not moving a muscle – fingers were poised to do something, anything – but I was in a trance.
Fifteen to twenty seconds go by – and I continue to stare at the big white empty message box.
(Blink. Blink. Blink goes the cursor…impatiently waiting for my fingers to compose a word or two.)
My stomach flinched with nerves. My foot twitched with energy. My courage waned and then recovered as I type in my first message to send out to the big, wide, global world.
After completing the short sentence, I looked for typos and hesitantly pressed the “Tweet” button.
At that moment, I JUMPED UP FROM MY CHAIR, closed my laptop and began to pace my dining room table in a nervous manner.
I did it! I did it! I sent out a global Tweet to the world.
…Then it hit me.
“So now what?”
“What do I do now? What happens next?”
Apprehension descends on my body.
“What if someone makes fun of me? What if they ask me a question that I cannot answer?”
A bit more pacing and thinking, pacing and thinking…after 15 minutes I return to my laptop to peek at my tweet.
No one had criticized me. Actually, no one did anything. Relief. Sweet relief. Okay, so that was good I thought to myself. This will be a learning curve and I can go slow.
My first tweet was done – like ripping the band-aid off and getting on with life.
Since July 2014, my followers have grown to around 1,100 folks. It’s not the number so much that matters, but since my topic is hearing loss – I am still amazed that many have followed me.
Hearing loss advocacy is relatively new on the global scene. Raising awareness is my key mission.
See, here’s the thing…I followed the lead of the hearing loss advocates who already spread their wings on Twitter. To gather my courage, I studied their efforts and looked at their Tweets to see how to do it. I simply followed the lead of established mentors sharing the good word on hearing loss advocacy.
But here is something else I want to share with you:
Spending time on Twitter has opened up the world for me…in a literal sense. I have connected with amazing, passionate, dedicated advocates from all corners of the world. These folks advocate for People with Disabilities. These folks make my heart sing with joy. Just look at their collective determination.
There are folks advocating for mental health, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and emotional disabilities. We are a big, wonderful community of advocates who spend our time, money, energy and love sharing kindness and awareness on Twitter.
People around the world are seeking answers after a new diagnosis. Their child may have a diagnosis of a life-long condition and they need answers…quickly.
A caregiver’s parent has a disabling medical condition, and they need insights fast to make the best decision on medical care.
There are folks of all sorts who need to learn quickly how to advocate for themselves after a medical condition has affected their daily lives. This is life-changing. Folks need support and advocates want to offer it via Twitter (and other social media platforms).
It goes on and on. Because:
One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. Persons with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities.
And advocates know this. We care.
We raise our voices in social media to share information and to coax change within the medical and corporate communities to improve life for all.
But most importantly, we encourage everyone to show up and be seen – to advocate for themselves (or loved ones).
For this is how the World shifts toward Inclusion, Respect, and Compassion.
One act of individual advocacy at a time. So I invite you to find your voice and use it for the cause or group you hold hear to your heart. If I can do it, you can too.
You represent Hope.
Thank you for listening. See you next time.
Find me on Twitter: @LoopAdvocate