Comfy Couches and My First Tweet with the #YTHLive Social Media Lounge

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Need convincing on why you should come to the Social Media Lounge at YTH Live? Just ask Clarissa Herman—a Twitter n00b when she came to the Social Media Lounge in 2014. This year she’s returning to YTH Live to talk about delivering sexuality education online. This is her story.

“Hi. So I think I need to get set up with a… Twitter. Can you show me how to do that?”

These words, which I hadn’t anticipated uttering, came out of my mouth shortly after entering the Social Media Lounge at YTH Live in 2014. I was wandering around the conference on a break from the sessions and saw that this room had couches and young people with laptops—it looked like a good place for an academic introvert.

I was nearing the end of my second semester of graduate school, living in tech-savvy San Francisco. Here, I was on my second day at this conference all about youth, technology, and health. I had a Twitter account once upon a time, but it fell into disuse and I eventually deleted it. However, after a few months in my social justice-oriented Sexuality Studies program at San Francisco State University, I noticed that a lot about activism and social change was being communicated through social media. I felt left out and somewhat intimidated by the prospect of using this kind of platform.

At YTH Live, presenters updated social media as they shared their revolutionary ideas about using technology for disseminating knowledge, teaching young people about sexuality, and effecting change. Planned Parenthood introduced their Chat/Text hotline, which is staffed seven days a week by educators prepared to answer questions about sexual health. Answer/Sex, Etc. unveiled their game, Safer Sex Shuffle, which won the Games for Change Design Competition in 2013. In the game, players rearrange tiles to connect body parts with barrier methods like condoms and dental dams to create safer sex behaviors. The University of Oregon Health Center debuted their smartphone app, SexPositive, a fun and educational app that delivers accurate and sex-positive information directly to your phone.

Presenters and participants alike used Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr to spread the word about all the exciting things happening at #YTHLive. Most sessions were being live-tweeted and I felt like I was missing out.

So, after a moment of feigned interest in the welcome materials, I approached a table in the Social Media Lounge where three young people wearing glasses, plaid, and nametags were engaged with their laptops. They looked up… I hesitantly asked for a Twitter tutorial, and they graciously obliged! They set me up with an account and a clever handle indicating my status as a sex educator (@ClarissaCondom), and helped me write my first tweet:

I successfully Twittered (just kidding, I know now that it’s tweeted) for the rest of the conference and even live-tweeted a colleague’s presentation! I recognize now that social media is a powerful tool in the world of social justice, academia, and sexuality and that a social media presence can be a valuable asset.

Clarissa works with the San Francisco State University Department of Sexuality Studies. Follow her on Twitter at @ClarissaCondom and find her on LinkedIn.

Looking for help and advice on how to advance the health of young people online? Connect with AIDS.gov and YTH at the Social Media Lounge, and learn how to more effectively use editorial calendars, hashtags, blogging, websites and social media to achieve your outreach goals.


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