In the age of social media, do you still care about the world?

Design: Fatima Jahan Ena

The reflection of the small rectangles on my eyes changes colour every other second. Shifting eyes, dilated pupils, faster tapping, blurred images, trigger warnings, exhausted bodies, and tired minds. I've cycled through this almost every day for months now. Colourful Canva cubes and retro fonts can only soften the blow so much. Protected by the warm glow on my face, I click through the most devastating and traumatic events, feeling numb.

Seeing how everyone's primary source of news consumption is the Internet, we end up being subjected to a continuous stream of violence, intolerance, and prejudice from media platforms. On an average day, I watch a video of a dog playing fetch, a commercial for waterproof mascara, bloodied bodies, and drone strikes within a span of ten seconds. My brain processes each one with as much importance as two seconds can grant.

We exist in perhaps the most socially polarised times where we have instant access to every crime reported. The humanity within begs us to stay updated on as much as possible but can this constant intake of graphic violence be healthy or sustainable?

In recent years, it seems as though every other social media post has a trigger warning on it, which helps to filter the content. This is incredibly useful in an age where there is an incredible amount of knowledge available in online resources. Research papers are simplified, summarised, and made incredibly digestible for the average user. This form of civic activism such as this has been an integral part of tackling the issues this generation. Although it can be at times performative, the central concern for this activism lies in the dilution of the graphic nature of the situation.

However, as the frequency of sharing graphic multimedia increases, we become desensitised and accept it as the norm. Our emotional reactivity diminishes with continued exposure to violent media. Even though we become neutral towards violent images, news sources still need to push their content, which makes them increase the shock factor. They blur less and push the limit with censorship. In a race between our immunity and need for shares and views, lines between trauma exploitation and credible news are being blurred.

If social media is so damaging to us then why not just leave it? Sadly, it's easier said than done. Our dependency on social media to maintain contact with friends and family has grown deeper, especially during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. Social media is still an incredibly useful resource which is integrated into our lives. While choosing to take a break may be feasible, complete detachment from these platforms is still very difficult.

Naturally, the question arises whether or not it is necessary to be desensitised in order to sustain an existence on social media. Personally, I do believe desensitisation is a natural consequence of being active online, since it's extremely emotionally taxing to fully internalise the trauma from each of the tragedies we see. Having said that, it's important to consider the ramifications of continued violent media exposure especially on younger consumers. Even if it is the reality of the world, is it fair to expose the most impressionable and naive minds to the worst atrocities humankind has to offer? Censorship and invasive government intervention is not the answer. Responsible media consumption seems to be the only answer.

Aryah Jamil is mediocre at everything except laughing at her own jokes Tell her to stop talking at [email protected]


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