Leigh’s View: Did You Really ‘LOL?’

In the dazzling world of drag, where glitter and glamor reign supreme, and self- expression knows no bounds, I’ve witnessed the community’s profound transformation over the years.

As a longtime stand-up comedian through being a drag queen, I’ve seen the community rise, shine and break free from the chains of prejudice. But even amid this colorful revolution, I recently found myself at a crossroads, forced to reimagine my drag career, free from the political constraints that had held me back for far too long. Let me take you on a journey through my experiences and observations, as I explore the impact of our obsession with technology on our lives and our relationships.

The very first thought that crossed my mind was, “Have I become my dad?” In this era of smartphones and constant connectivity, it is my fear that we have transformed into the very thing that we once laughed about, especially considering my humble origins as a good ol’ hillbilly from Kentucky. It’s almost comical how life’s twists and turns can make us realize that, in some ways, we’ve turned into the very people for which we once mocked their own ways of life and beliefs.

In 2023, with many political and social changes and challenges in full swing, our obsession with social media has pushed us to the brink. Constantly posting, scrolling and sexting with our phones never more than an arm’s length away have taken a toll on our mental wellbeing. It’s a mind-boggling experience for our brains and it makes me question where we’re headed.

The title of this article, “Did You Really ‘LOL?’” is meant to make you pause and think about the way we interact with our digital devices. Are we truly present in the moment or have we become slaves to the technology that’s supposed to serve us?

As we dive into the depths of this brave new world, we must acknowledge the undeniable power of technology and the ability to reach people instantaneously. But, as I’ve learned, this incredible power comes at a cost, one that has profoundly affected our many personal relationships, be it at work, home or in our daily lives.

I find myself becoming increasingly cautious about what I post and share online. Having fallen victim to the pitfalls of social media, I may have made the mistake of writing posts or comments that didn’t truly reflect my thoughts while simply feeling a particular way at one moment. It’s so easy to open the door for what many call “the haters.” When an innocent post is hijacked and twisted to make you appear as someone you’re not, it’s a disheartening experience. In such situations, my advice is to take the high road and avoid engaging in online battles. People seem more empowered to say hurtful things behind the safety of a screen, things they would never dare to say to your face. I recently experienced this and was taken aback by how someone could twist my words to demonize me. And they found it easy to do so. But the great thing was, there were over 300 people applauding my post. But still, tone is NOT in the post, so a person takes it differently than what it was meant to be.

Of course, we also must address the perilous intersection of social media and politics, which often results in the very worst conflicts. During the Trump years, I lost friends and even some loved ones due to political disputes that ignited on social media platforms. Personal texting is no exception; I’ve significantly reduced my texting habits because text messages fail to convey tone and inflection accurately, leading to misunderstandings and heated arguments.

Texting, in particular, has become a preferred medium for those who shy away from confrontations in person. It’s all too easy to fire someone, end a relationship or send profanity-laden messages with just a few taps of a screen. Our phones have become permanent extensions of ourselves, but I’m here to tell you that I’m not planning to be buried with mine. I’d rather be remembered for the real-life connections I made, the faces I smiled at and the hearts I touched.

It is my hope that this article will encourage you to cherish your humanity in the digital age. As you navigate this ever-growing labyrinth of technology, social media platforms and personal devices, remember to reach out and connect with others on a human level. Consider calling someone instead of texting, and when you encounter a post that riles you up, take a moment to read it again and refrain from contributing to a “hate” thread.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that suicides are on the rise and bullying is rampant, with social media playing a significant role in these disturbing trends. However, social media can also be a place for appropriate debate, showing support, expressing sorrow, combating loneliness and, yes, even genuinely laughing out loud!

So, as we move forward in this brave new digital world, let’s strive to maintain our humanity and remember that behind every screen there’s a real person with real feelings. Let’s choose kindness and understanding, embrace our differences and ensure that our LGBTQ+ community continues to thrive, both on and off the screen.

Martin “Leigh Shannon” Fugate is a local business owner, actor, comedian and entertainer. A strong advocate for getting out the vote and creating political change, he is a past candidate for local political office and has a wide, diverse fan base. He’s been happily married to his husband, Joey, for 37 years.

More in Viewpoint

See More