Food for thought

Has Social Media Become a Platform for Passing Quick Judgments?

With the recent debate about the so called racist picture of a 5 year old, one cannot help but think, whether social media has really gone too far? Find out what Karteekka Tyaggi has to say.

When I saw this picture of a five-year-old Swedish boy of Kenyan origin, I could not see anything else, but a cute, good looking and photogenic child modeling for a cute hoodie. I even read the caption on the hoodie that read "coolest monkey in the Jungle", but honestly my interpretation was definitely not what the photo and the caption has become synonymous with. To me, it was exactly how I call my little one a "monkey" when he's "monkeying around", jumping here and there.


Honestly, I could not even remotely think of any racism in that photo or the caption. However, surprisingly, within a few hours, social media was abuzz with hateful messages against H&M, calling the picture an act of racism and demanding immediate removal of that advert. Not just people of African decent but some white people were also openly protesting against the picture. 


And while all this was going on and while H&M decided to take down the advert, stories started pouring in where the little boy's mother, who too, like me did not see any "racism in the hoodie and the picture", was being trolled on social media by fellow African origin people. People were calling her insensitive, racist and she was being spammed with hateful messages, so much so that she had to delete her posts from her Instagram account. 


Certainly, we all are entitled to our opinion, but I feel that a very basic thing should never be forgotten. Expressing one's opinion shall not be at the cost of someone else's freedom or personal dignity. But in today's world dominated by social media, everyone has a voice that MUST be heard! Even people who perhaps needed to take public speaking lessons or who have never faced a crowd ever in their lives have all of a sudden become vocal and have become vocal about every small little aspect of life. It is too easy to speak up and raise your voice about issues that concern you (or don't concern you), when you are hidden behind the facade of a facebook, twitter or Instagram profile. And the result? Most of the times, things are blown out of proportion in no time, quick judgments are passed on people's characters, people's philosophies, their life and not just this, but insensitive and reckless use of social media (most of the time for a claim to 15 seconds of fame) also affects the impressionable minds of our young ones. 


When I showed this so called 'racist picture to my 8 year old, his reaction was way too simple, rather 'humane'. He only said, "can we buy this for me, since you call me a monkey!". The child did not see any difference between black and white skin and did not see the term monkey as derogatory or being related to a racial expression. Can we also, for a second, think like children and not jump to conclusions without putting any logical and reasonable though process. Can we stop using social media as a tool for our personal claim to fame and start using it for more productive and more pressing issues rather than finding faults in each other and digressing from the issues and causes which actually need our attention. 


Today, social media has become the easiest platform for saying, doing and showcasing what one may not be able to do or showcase in real life, from sending a friend request to the girl you secretly liked in school to boasting about that expensive family vacation to some remote island. I even know people  (who are apart of about 500 off facebook friends that I have) who send me birthday wishes on my facebook page, but when face-to-face, they wouldn't even say hello to me! And connected to this newfound virtual voice is the power to bully people and the power to showcase your courage and strength to the world. Not even one day goes by, when we don't hear a news story about celebrities and non-celebrities being trolled on social media for some comment or statement that they never knew would create so much furor. Everyday, things are blown out of proportion, people are being judged for what they wear, what they look like, what they say and sometimes, what they don't say! This new found virtual voice and the virtual world where everyone knows everyone comes with its own set of red flags, which may not be visible today, but it wont be too long before we are all caught in this cobweb called social media. 


I think what initially started as a "keep in touch with old friends" tools has taken new dimensions and the most dangerous dimension being the virtual voice that makes trivial issues seem really important and the lightening speed with which judgments are drawn, opinions are formed and petitions are signed. 


Nonetheless, if used sensibly, social media can be a really powerful tool for raising social issues that are actually important, for giving expression to artistic thoughts and of course, for bringing the world together.  




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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Karteekka Tyaggi

HI! I'm Karteekka, a lawyer by profession and founder of Salaam Life. I love sharing everything that is close to my heart and that is the reason why Salaam Life as created. want to drop a line to me?

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