Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Male Media Mind One Year Later

When we started M3 one year ago today, it was just a blog James and I started in order to write more regularly. We each had an individual blog that we only updated every once in a while. We figured if we started a blog together then we'd push each other to post. We also knew that if no one else read it we'd at least have each other as an audience. I talked about politics, social issues, and relationships. He wrote about movies and shows. Maybe the only thing we had in common was our love of big men and the fact that we were nerdy enough to write about what interested us at length. In my old blog, I never acknowledged my sexuality at all.

On M3 we recognized our sexuality as an essential part of our interests and if we were going to be fully honest as writers we had to celebrate thick men. We wrote a post a day going back and forth between each other. Back then we weren't getting much attention outside our close circle of friends. We wanted to get readers interested in what we were doing, so we started a YouTube channel and Facebook group. Little did we know we had just opened Pandora's Box. It wasn't like we'd never been on social media before, but we were both nerds of the highest order and we were familiar with how it worked. We were not the guys at the party or hanging out with friends. We were the ones at home reading comics and writing in journals. The world of social media provided us a way to connect on a personal level in order to convince people to take the time to read what we had to say. 

We already had Facebook profiles, but we didn't post much. It wasn't until the creation of the M3 Facebook group that we really got a better idea of what social media was all about. A lot of it was great. We met a lot of great people in the past year, many of them we count among our closest friends today, but there is also a dark side we didn't anticipate. Before Facebook we just wanted a place to publish our writing. After, we were in the business of community building. We quickly saw there was a lack of healthy outlets for black bears to intelligently discuss ideas. Most of the groups were strictly hook up venues or didn't make informed discussion a priority. Other groups seemed to strictly forbid sexual topics altogether, but it seemed that very few combined the two in a way that accurately reflected our common interests. Sure we liked to talk about sex, but we're much more than our sexuality. So we ended up creating the group we wanted to be a part of. It takes a lot of time to moderate a group in order to get the kind of balance we wanted, but the result is what M3 is today. 

When we started doing Google Hangouts, we started attracting people who wanted to get on and get their voice heard. At first I resented all the work that I was doing in the background to edit and promote the videos after each talk, but over time I realized that I had found a new talent in myself. What started off as a simple discussion of different topics turned into an online talk show. I was finding out that  I had hidden skills as a discussion facilitator. It helped that I was genuinely interested in what the different contributors had to say each week. I was learning a lot about gay culture along the way and growing as a member of the bear community. I was slowly learning the ins and outs of video editing and production. I took a step back and realized that as much as I love writing, I really enjoy my role as a web series producer. Our weekly hangouts are a constant source of community building and have gotten us closer to each other. I really do consider everyone on M3 to be good friends. I never thought online friendships could be this tight.

We also lost a lot of contributors along the way. Eight people have come and gone since we first started a year ago. The first time it happened I wrote a long post about losing friends, and now it's happened so many times I quickly pivot to the people who are still with us and realize that it has only made us stronger as a group. People will not always see eye to eye on difficult issues. If M3 is about anything it's about confronting difficult issues and talking our way through them to come to some understanding even if we're left disagreeing with each other.

I've learned how to engage people in conversation even when they disagree with me. I used to get upset so much that I couldn't maintain a rational discussion. When someone would say something ignorant or derisive I learned how not to take it personally. If they have issues it's probably not with me. Now it has become old hat to keep my cool and stay professional. I've learned about Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram and how to share my interests with large groups of people. Before M3 I didn't even know what a hashtag was, let alone how to use one. I find myself all over the social media landscape making friends and inroads into new communities. I've learned how to be assertive with people who were pushing me to do things that I disagreed with and I've found my voice along the way. Saying no used to be one of the most difficult things for me to do, but now I find myself more confident when confronted with difficult situations. But if I had one regret on this day, the one year anniversary of M3, it would be that I did not do as much writing as I set out to do when I first started.

In a few days I'll be introducing myself to a room full of people I've never met in person before and try to explain what M3 is all about. I want people to meet me in person in the hopes that they will get to know me and support M3. I hope that by seeing I'm a real person they'll by share our posts with confidence knowing that their friends will find value in what we do. I'm even going to ask for donations to help us build an independent social networking site to better meet the needs of our community. So I've been up all night trying to think what I'm going to say to them in order to convey what M3 is all about. 

I see a real need for constructive conversations on the Internet. Our community is small and spread out. In order for us to come together we need to have constructive conversations. Our voices need to be heard as much as we need someone to listen to our stories. Unfortunately it seems that the things that get our attention most are the negative elements in our community. We've been looking for positive ways to provoke insightful conversations and slowly it seems to be working. Because we're so varied in our perspectives, we have at least one point of view that will resonate with a large segment of our community. We're hoping that by setting an example of how to constructively disagree with each other we can bring a greater amount of unity to our community. 

Let me take the time now to thank each contributor who is with us at our one year anniversary

James, who has been here from the beginning, is the eternal optimist and dreamer. He's always got new ideas and has never lost faith in M3. 

Lynx was our first video contributor and convinced us to start making video posts. His provocative commentary has been a fan favorite from the start. 

Breeze came on as a writer and graphic designer and revolutionized the look and feel of M3. He and I would go on to be more than friends, so I might be a little biased, but if it weren't for him I feel we wouldn't have been able to attract the audience we have today. 

Vaughne is the big kid with a big heart. He's known as the urban legend for how infrequently he joins the hangouts, but his commitment to M3 is rock solid. He's the guy anyone would be lucky to have as a friend.

Gerald, also known as the friendliest guy in the world, started off as a fan of M3. He posted so frequently that his questions and articles in the Facebook group became a regular part of our discussions. After joining us as a guest, he quickly became an integral part of the team. 

Trebor and I are old friends who reconnected through Facebook after starting M3. When I asked him to join he was reluctant at first, but soon learned his concerns were misguided as he soon became a internet media sensation. He reminds me everyday how much we've grown since we first met.

Cecil came on most recently and quickly became a part of the M3 crew. His ability to read people is uncanny and he has some of the best insights about people I've known. And whenever he laughs I can't help but to laugh along with him.

We've been really lucky to find each other. I can't help but think M3 is unique because of the people who are a part of it. We've sometimes had our differences, but at the end of the day we've always cared about each other and respected the mission to unify our community. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed and follows us on social media. We appreciate your comments and contributions. We look forward to your continued support in the years to come.





MALCOLM TRAVERS
Male Media Mind