Facebook: Superficiality and distorted commitment

by Mehrab Jamal

an01Well this piece can be wrapped up with one question: when was the last time you saw hundreds of ‘likes’ on an eye-opening ‘status’ from a commoner, the same commoner who gets hundreds of ‘likes’ on a photograph unnaturally beautified using one of myriad relevant apps? You might respond stating that said commoner does not have the intellect to produce an enlightening piece of text. Thank you very much, my work here is done.
No, this write-up is not an inflammatory one premeditated to offend any segment of the virtual community, rather it is a product of inquisitiveness worth mere minutes…yes minutes, because that is how long it takes someone to realise the prevalence of the message conveyed by this article once he puts it in context relative to the activity of his friends appearing on his ‘news feed’.
First off, the one thing that has frequently bothered the author is how ‘facebookers’ just have to cave in to trends. This has been a frequent engagement for most and something I have come across starting from the Gaza debacle from last year to the supremely despicable events of the Bengali New Year earlier this year. What people on facebook have done is that they have inadvertently trivialised a social cause. Yes, they flooded the net with a sea of well-manufactured hashtag lexicon; but ask them to come up with an engaging self-written post instead of a reiterated ‘share’ and odds are they will fail to do so.
Is it because they are not capable intellectually or is it because they did not care enough to read between the lines on what has happened and to stop and think about the implications of said cause? I ask you how long did the hashtag war last on your news-feed? No not the time in terms of days or weeks, but how long at one continuous stretch? Did your friend who initially ‘shared’ a coherent post then go on to share some rather hilarious picture or anecdote completely irrelevant to his initial ‘contribution’ to the cause?
Social media has gone on to achieve great things in terms of a social cause: there’s no denying its contribution to the Arab Springs Revolution in Egypt and other areas in the Middle East back in 2011 and to the revolution against the Turkish Government in 2013. No, a violent demonstration is not being endorsed here but has the persistent violation against women’s rights back home been alleviated yet? Was our enthusiasm and commitment to a cause a momentary phenomenon?
An extension of this ‘People are not what they share’ segment of the virtual populace is that collective of ‘preachers of piety’.
You know how there is ethics in business? Well, it is high time that there be a certain intangible, abstract code of conduct that defines how people should use social media. Now this bit will be on the receiving end of some criticism.
Remember, the cricket world-cup earlier this year and how our fellow country-men waged a war of ridicule on Indians over social media. Now, how many of you actually thought to yourselves, ‘I remember how this person and I used to have a war of words back in the day when I supported some other national team and he used to support the Indian cricket team’? Let’s be completely honest with ourselves: this was not the first time the Indian media had disparaged its competition on advertisements.
Yes sure, this may have been the first time they had done so conspicuously, but the Indian cricket team has always been glorified on advertisements in a way that has indirectly belittled other teams. So how is it that the same collective of people who danced to the tunes of what was being circulated in the media some five-six years back, was so aggravated by similar if not the same tunes being played a few months ago. What changed?
During the group stages of the WC, when Australia VS Bangladesh was cancelled due to rain, the masses once again went on a banter-spree about how God had saved the Australian cricket team from a beating. Now fast forward to the semi-final between Australia and India, the same collective switched sides, this time in favour of the soon-to-be champions and cheered them on, hoping the main antagonist, India would be taken out for good. Well, that was simple banter, wasn’t it? But how exactly were we different from the Indian cricket fans? Let’s face it: success, no matter how small or big, brings about complacency, complacency that grows into arrogance that eliminates rational behaviour. The Indians are an example of it, just as we were.
I believe Will Smith joked on a chat show, ‘I was very dumb when I was 14. See no twitter, no facebook when I was 14…So I was dumb but I was dumb in private’. Let’s all be a little bit more responsible with our actions on social media. Former Australian PM Tony Abbott had tweeted a few years back criticising how resignation of the Speaker was reflective of a frail ruling opposition party; imagine how the virtual community reacted when he was in power and the then-incumbent speaker also resigned like the aforementioned dignitary. We must make sure that our opinions stay the same, at least in principle and that we stay sincere to an opinion and for our own sakes, that our activity on social media does not come back to bite us.
The author is an undergraduate student at The University of Sydney

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