Showing off in a pandemic

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 00:00 |
Social media. Photo/Courtesy

Flaunting privilege on social media when others are suffering is a sure way to get on the wrong side of netizens. Nailantei Norari explores what one should post when their fellow countrymen are reeling from the merciless jaws of a Covid-19 crisis or when the citizens fight hunger or patriarchy.

Nailantei Norari @artnorari

Social media has over time become part and parcel of our daily lives. It is what we use to appraise ourselves of the traffic on the roads on the morning commute, and what we use to stay informed on what is going on around us.

It is what people use to cry for help when being battered by an errant spouse or while being held hostage by terrorists. 

Social media is one way people have stayed informed during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis with most governments and organisations leveraging the medium to stay relevant while providing information.

While social media is a largely personal platform, as people mostly post what they want with little regulations on what to post, the pandemic crisis has highlighted the need to go through the unspoken social media etiquette that exists, but is only noticeable when there is uproar over what someone has posted.

What should someone post when their fellow countrymen are reeling from the merciless jaws of a pandemic or when the citizens are in a war against hunger or patriarchy?

Posting and responsibility

“This question can only be answered by who the person is and what their social media platform is used for and whether they are persons of influence or not,” Ken Munyua a counselling psychologist explains. 

“With a great name comes great responsibility. This invariably carries over into social media where a reputable person is not allowed the same laxity as someone with fewer followers as their posts are exposed to more eyeballs and hence their effect is felt more.

This means that influencers should be careful when posting and ensure that they are informed as posting the wrong information is invariably worse than posting the wrong thing,” he says.

He cites the example of the uproar that followed Indian actors and actresses after they posted their photos on holiday while their home country was reeling from the effects of Covid-19 losing hundreds of lives a day to the virus.

Flaunting privilege when others are suffering is a sure way to get on the wrong side of netizens, especially if you thrive on their goodwill like the actors and actresses in question.

If you are just a normal person with few followers, you might get no blowback from posting merrymaking photos while your countrymen are in a crisis.

However, it is important to ensure that your posts do not come out as tone-deaf. You would rather post nothing and instead sit on the holiday content till the holiday is over.

While this might make one fearful of posting anything during a crisis, one can still post fun and banal things that can invoke a laugh instead of strong negative emotions.

Comedy breaks and fasts

Bonnie Kim, a life coach says that it is okay to post mundane things that could alleviate stress during a stressful time such as cats, shots of nature and other things that evoke positive emotions. 

“For comedy channels and comedians, they can still post their comedic videos as these will be much needed comedy breaks from the turmoil evoked by the crisis.

They, however, have to be careful on the subject matter of their comedic posts as they do not want to further anger the people who are already on edge.

If one is really brave, they can always lend their voice to the masses to clamour for change,” Bonnie explains.

Mammito, a famous Kenyan comedian is known for being humorous, but still lending her voice to important issues.

She for instance, challenged the patriarchal society, in a recent online debate where netizens wanted presenters held accountable for saying careless remarks about women and their sexuality while on air.

The video that Mammito did was shared numerous times as netizens clamoured for change and a more balanced reportage on women and feminine issues.

Be mindful

While it is important to take a stand on issues that are important to you and your followers, Bonnie shares the importance of either staying quiet if neutral or voicing one’s opinion in a carefully worded way in order not to polarise one’s followers.

He cites the social media storm that followed, Greta Thunberg, a climate advocate vocal on many issues, when she decided to declare her neutrality on Israel and Palestine.

She tweeted that she was not for either nation, but was firmly against any type of violence.

What followed was an unprecedented attack where she was vilified for not taking a side and for posting on it as it was not addressing the issue in any way. 

“The key takeaway is to be mindful of each other and how you will affect eyeballs, which land on your social media post.

Post while being aware of the prevailing environment and mood. If what you are posting could be construed as showing off because your followers are less privileged than you and are battling hunger, it might be prudent that you don’t post.

Remember that there are real people with real feelings coming across your posts every day.

Also remember that they have a radar to detect nonsense. This is why neutral posts pandering to the public incense netizens more than not posting at all does. Practice decency and kindness and the internet will be kind to you in turn,” Ken adds.

He further urges both content creators and the average netizens to have social media fasts.

This balance out the human psyche thereby making it less likely to react emotionally to online posts.

“You still have a life to live in real life. It can get quite heavy being on social media, especially during a crisis.

This means that emotions are high and you are more likely to get triggered by something that would normally not.

Unplug, take a walk, breathe. Focus on what you can do in real life rather than what is going wrong. Decenter your real life from your virtual one just a bit,” Ken sagely advises.

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