Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a soaring engagement with social media among people worldwide. The pandemic, Covid-19, has resulted in the world to resort to a formidable self-quarantine phase, with external measures taken by most governments across the globe to contain the spread of the virus. With the possibilities of actual social interaction stalled, the virus has opened up avenues for people to spend more times at their homes; either to while away their time in sheer indolence or if circumstances are proper, to facilitate more time for respite and self-improvement in themselves. People are using the virtual platform for all kinds of activities, from activism towards exasperating issues festering in the country to as a primary means to cope with the currently most pervasive of all sentiments, ennui or in other words,incapacitating boredom. The tendency of engagement, in this instance, is observed to be mostly reclining towards the latter for, the cyclical routine of the tedious lives of people have precipitated their dormant drives to seek novelty and excitement. What better way to gratify that desire than scrolling through the posts of your ‘friends’ (on Instagram more subtly called, followers) and seeking fulfillment in your dreary lives, vicariously, through them?
This fulfillment does not, however, come without a cost. It falls short of a fulfillment, that way, for it actually expands the sense of lacunae that people are trying to overcome. It impinges on to the psyches of its viewers, reiterating the notion that their lives are not good enough or others’ lives are more eventful or better off than them. At a sensitive time like this when Covid-19 is wreaking havoc worldwide, the desire for being socially validated makes people vulnerable to putting up a façade about themselves on social media; depicting that their lives are ‘desirable’, that they are happy about making Dalgona coffee and posting about driving out of their homes, having a great time at cafes, and violating the norms of social distancing at the same time. While on the one hand, body positivity posts on social media are on the rise, several women have resorted to utilize this time to do modeling out of their homes, at different places on each day.
While there is nothing objectionable about getting pictures clicked and feeling confident about oneself, the kind of online culture that it propagates is deleterious to the impressionable minds of young women. The two currents of the body positivity propaganda constantly clash, because while one encourages acceptance and tolerance of all kinds of bodies, the other hinges on self-centeredness and a surplus attention on body-aesthetic over other creative expressions that do not emerge from the locus of physicality. Besides, cyberbullying is also on the rise during Covid-19. Social media conveniently grants people a license to be hurtful, regardless of how inauthentically those sentiments are being conveyed. If one group’s political imperatives and inclinations clash with another group’s political ideations, social media becomes a battleground of hate speech and personal attacks directed towards the disagreeing parties. Not to mention that the overuse of social networking sites can cause personality and brain disorders, primarily in children. It prevents people from having real, meaningful conversations and even if it does, it never communicates the real sensibilities and emotions pertinent to the issues being discussed. This kind of communication mars the development of ‘real’ connections.
However, this has more to do with the desire of people expanding the number of people they’re ‘connecting’ with rather than the strength of the otherwise limited connections they’d normally establish. People are more inclined to expanding their number of ‘followers’ and getting more ‘likes’ on their pictures than actually developing meaningful connections. These kind of developing tendencies foster a hegemony that encourages instant gratification, observable in the rise of the number of registered users on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. It rejects exclusivity for it constantly shifts one’s attention span from one person to another or from one product to another.
This exacerbates the feelings of disconnect and alienation. The desire to appear physically attractive and hence, desirable conquers the psyches of men and women, especially young men and women, who are seeking desirable partners who could do away with their feelings of loneliness and alienation. The façade, however, is soon uncovered by their potential matches, frustrating the possibilities of a ‘real’ connection, which could be realizable without the energy being expended on discovering how physically attractive the friend or the partner actually is. Regardless, it subjects all and sundry to a higher risk for anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders and even suicide.
Written by: Shita Thukral
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