DNA #208

Friend Or Foe?

Simon Dunn from DNA #202, by Studio Christian Scott.

Is social media enhancing your life or dragging down your self-esteem? Will Fennell asks out athlete Simon Dunn.


This article first appeared in DNA #208

Don’t get me wrong; I love Facebook and Instagram just as much as the next person but I do miss life before social media when our private lives were just that and we didn’t feel the need to constantly post what we are doing and how we are feeling at every moment of the day and night.
Obsessive social media use has contributed to many people suffering mental health issues. We constantly compare our lives, loves and appearance with our “friends” and often come away feeling inferior and inadequate.
What started as a genius idea to connect people is now having the opposite effect, with many of us become more disconnected and isolated, with poor self-esteem. Experts are calling it Social Media Depression and it’s very real, especially in our community where we are bombarded online with images of men living seemingly perfect lives with perfect physiques.

“In the last few years I’ve had death threats and a stalker.”

Is the answer switching it all off? I don’t think so and, honestly, I don’t think it’s even achievable. We just need to use social media in moderation and understand that not everything online is “real”.
During our recent backpacking adventure, the boyf and I posted some amazing images of our trip. What I didn’t post were photos of me sitting on a train toilet between Thailand and Laos with explosive diarrhea for eight hours. Its called selective posting and we all do it.
When researching this topic, I thought I’d get some input from someone who is “Insta-famous”. This gentleman is a hero of The Convicts rugby team, a (now retired) bobsleigh athlete and DNA cover star, Simon Dunn.

Simon Dunn from DNA #202, by Studio Christian Scott.

Will: As a sportsman with a huge social media following, how do you deal with the day-to-day effects social media can have on how you feel about yourself?
Simon Dunn: I’ve been away from family and friends for about four years while training with bobsleigh. So, social media has been really helpful for staying in touch with everyone. I’ve watched my nephews and niece grow up via social media. It’s tough, but I’m grateful for the opportunity. When I meet new people, many already have a preconceived idea of who I am because of social media. So, I feel that has disconnected some people from getting to know the real me and not the Simon they see via my social media.
With over 100,000 followers (I’m one), you’re definitely “Insta-Famous”. What do you think about this label?
Social media has been a tool to promote myself as an out athlete. Growing up I didn’t have any role models who were out gay athletes. So being in front of as many people as possible means that, hopefully, for someone, I’m that person. Even if its just one gay teen who’s struggling with who they are, then it’s all worth it.
Your account is a mix of sporty you, sexy you and goofy you, which I feel is very much the real you. Is it scary putting yourself out there and allowing people to just “comment”?
I’ve put a lot of myself on social media and have tried to be as honest as possible about my life. Sometimes I feel I’ve been a little too honest. In the last few years I’ve had death threats and have had to get the police involved because of a stalker. So that’s always a worry. Something I’ll never get used to is people I’ve never met disliking me and being very public about it. But I also get a lot of messages of encouragement and from people telling me they look up to me or that I’ve had a positive effect on their lives.

“I’ll never get used to people I’ve never met disliking me and being very public about it.”

Have you ever struggled with poor self-esteem or depression around your sexuality?
When I first came out I tried so hard to fit into the gay community that I lost my own identity. I thought acting a certain way, liking certain things was who I was meant to be. Inevitably I ended up being unhappy in myself. Looking back now I honestly think I hated the fact I was gay. It wasn’t until I got back into sport that I really felt I found my place in society. I now consider myself lucky that I’m gay.
What do you do when you’re having a bad day? How does Simon feed his soul?
Growing up, when I was feeling down, I’d always find comfort in going to the ocean. Now, living about 15 hours from the ocean in Canada, I’ve grown to love hiking in the Rocky Mountains. It’s nice to get back to nature and clear your head. Life’s problems seem irrelevant when you’re standing at the top of a summit!

This article first appeared in DNA #208

DNA is Australia's best-selling magazine for gay men. Every month, you'll find great feature stories, celebrity profiles, pop culture reviews and sensational photography of some of the world's sexiest male models in our fashion stories. DNA was launched in Australia in 2000 and is now available worldwide in bookstores throughout Canada, US, UK and Europe.

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