How is our message received?
Often it is during conversations or interactions with people on social media, that ideas for these musings come about.
One such instance happened recently, when I received a message from someone, new to naturism, who was struggling with the overwhelming barrage of information, and frankly inappropriate content that they found off-putting.
A conversation followed and they revealed to me some of the comments that they had received and the way that those comments made them feel. Unexpectedly, some of these comments were from people (both men and women) I hold in high regard as promoters of the clothing-optional lifestyle. I was surprised, and then it dawned on me. It is not how we deliver our message that is important, it is how it is received that really matters.
Social media is a minefield when it comes to naturism. Facebook and Instagram do nothing to support or even acknowledge the existence of non-sexual nudity as a valid lifestyle choice. Twitter at least allows nudity in its content, but as many genuine naturists have found, they do not allow nudity in profile or header pictures.
I am the first to admit that Twitter is a toxic environment and not a particularly gentle introduction to naturism, perhaps not the best place to start for those dipping their toes into the world of naturism. I use Twitter as it allows me to connect with like-minded people who share content that would be banned on Facebook and Instagram. For me, the benefits outweigh the problems, but it takes a lot of maintenance to block or remove the explicit content that I don’t wish to see. The list of accounts that I have blocked is no doubt longer than the list of people I follow and the list of those who follow me.
The reality for people starting a journey toward naturism is that they often don’t know what they don’t know, and being confronted by a barrage of inappropriate content does nothing to ease any anxiety that they might have.
Other more gentle social media groups cater for non-sexual clothing-optional people, but these tend to be behind a paywall or accessed by invitation only. These methods are successful in keeping out the volley of inappropriate and sexualised content that is prolific on Twitter but they make access for people investigating the naturist philosophy difficult. Even for those seasoned naturists interested in connecting with others following a naturist philosophy, the barriers of a paywall or invitation model can prove too much.
There are many really good resources for people new to the naturist philosophy, including books, online articles, podcasts and blogs, that help demystify and demonstrate the benefits of a clothing-optional choice as well as cautioning people about the risks and pitfalls that may be encountered.
For those of us contributing to the increasing resources extolling the virtues of naturism, we need to make sure that we pay attention to the language that we use and think about how the message might be heard. We need to consider our audience and remember that for people new to the ideas of naturism, the messages can be overwhelming with many questions unanswered.
Naturists see ourselves as an inclusive and accepting group, and yet some of the labels we use may be divisive and exclusionary. Labelling people can risk creating an “us and them” environment and doesn’t always allow for diversity.
Naturism is not a binary condition where you are either clothed or naked. Just as in life there is a multitude of diverse opinions and lifestyles, so it is within naturism. Like life, where everyone is on a spectrum of beliefs, attitudes and behaviour, naturists also occupy a spectrum, with committed full-time naturists on one end and mostly clothed people on the other. Along this spectrum, there is a myriad of styles, beliefs, attitudes and opinions about what naturism is and how best to live the philosophy. There are some core tenets of naturism, around respect for others, respect for the environment and respect for the self, but there are also varying aspects to the philosophy. Naturism is a very personal choice, and the reasons people choose to adopt the philosophy are individual and varied.
There are many reasons why naturists may wear clothes, but they enjoy the freedom of opting not to wear anything when the climate or conditions allow.
While those of us who are seasoned clothing-optional advocates are trying to explain as encouragingly as we can the benefits of our lifestyle, we need to be aware of how the message is received rather than how it was delivered.
Perhaps we need to try and remember what it was like for us when we first began our foray into naturism. We often see people new to naturism embracing the philosophy and becoming almost evangelical with enthusiasm, and it is easy to join in with that passion and assume that everyone “sees the light” early in their journey.
We may be explaining things for the thousandth time from our point of view, but need to remember that the person we are talking to might be hearing it for the first time.
“The message sent is not always the message received.”
— Virginia Satir
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
Although the terms "naturist" or "nudist" are convenient labels, I tend to agree with Wayne that they can be problematic - creating an "us and them" mentality. In fact, using the term "textiles" to refer to people wearing clothes has become quite derogatory. Even naturists are textiles at times! Being naked should be regarded and promoted as a dress code of choice in appropriate situations.
Yes, social media is probably the worst place that would-be naturists should learn about clothing-optional life - particularly (though not exclusively) American based sites, with their confused mindset over nudity and sex.
My personal recommendation is to seek out reputable naturist websites such as British Naturism, Get Naked Germany, Hauraki Naturally, or similar for the country of your residence.
I think that this article like most "overthinks" the subject. I simply have a great respect for nature, for all living things I share this planet with, and for myself. I live and act as nature intended, I was born nude and I use textiles when needed to meliorate temperatures, protect against insects and mainly ignorant people. This means I often use textiles simply to avoid complications like a fine or worse. Jerry