Three days ago, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown for 21-days, I did something completely impulsively and unexpected. I made an Insta account. I had literally gone on air to say how I didn’t find the platform appealing just that evening. And yet, when the sure-shot possibility of being locked in the house for 21 more days came crashing down on me (I had been social distancing for 15 days prior to that) I knew I needed a new thing to keep me engaged. So while the husband is on level 200 of Candy Crush, I am exploring Insta. But there was another reason for this impulsive decision of mine. My usually preferred platforms of social networking were growing increasingly hostile. Not that there is no hate on Insta, but since I have a new account, I am in better control of what I want to see. It is understandable that amidst this lockdown, we are all on the edge, nerves frayed and frustrated. But does this mean we cannot be kinder to each other? A world in which we are already staying apart physically can do with some virtual warmth, can’t it?
- This 21-day lockdown has made us fussy and grumpy.
- But must we vent out our frustration on others via social media?
- Do people who are posting memes, videos about the lockdown, trying to bring some normalcy or routine to their lives, need to be criticised?
- Has anyone forced you to watch workout videos or memes on work from home?
- If you don't like them, why not scroll past them? Why spread hatred?
It is understandable that amidst this lockdown, we are all on the edge, nerves frayed and frustrated. But does this mean we cannot be kinder to each other? A world in which we are already staying apart physically can do with some virtual warmth, can’t it?
Animosity is everywhere. It is on my WhatsApp where “Chinese virus” memes and forwards are copiously being served. Twitter, on the other hand, is busy criticising lockdown workout videos and the "entitlement" of those complaining about gaining weight by sitting at home because that means you had food, all in one breath. Stop cribbing about having to cook, at least you have the means. Stop fussing about having to do household chores, at least you are at home. The wrath seems unending. Yes, there has been a rise in feel-good content. I came across a video of a toilet paper funeral and it brought a smile to my lips. But even under such uplifting videos, there is always that one person who will take a moral high ground and shame the content creator for being insensitive.
Are we channelling this lockdown frustration on each other? Or was social media always this toxic place, with all its energy channelled on one issue right now, thus making the hatred unbearable? Does one feel disgusted by those spewing hate? Or is it just an alarm of rising mental health crisis, that needs to be addressed globally?
Posting funny memes, workout videos are a way of coping for many with this lockdown. A way to bring some humour and normalcy to this tense situation. Must they be robbed of their happiness and constantly reminded that others are not having it easy? As if we all don't know that?
I agree, there are so many things that are infuriating amidst this lockdown. The numerous people who refuse to follow government’s instructions to stay at home, the migration crisis that has forced hundreds, or perhaps thousands to travel by road to their homes, the fact that even countries with most advanced healthcare systems in place are dropping down to their knees in front of COVID-19. This is all scary and the sheer unpredictability of how and when will this pandemic cease is making everyone restless.
At such times, it is important that each one us finds strength in compassion and humour. Making senseless videos for TikTok, posting memes about household chores or gaining weight, or even posting workout videos is okay (there, I said it). If these harmless digital actions are making this lockdown bearable for people, why shame them? Besides, no one is forcing you to consume the content you don’t approve of. Don’t like a forward about household chores on WhatsApp? Delete it. Don’t like a workout video on Insta, scroll right past it. Social distancing is perhaps not only necessary physically right now, but virtually on some level too. So stay away from people or content that upsets you, and simply let other people mind their own business.
Another important thing that anyone who catches themselves cribbing more than usual needs to do is to check in with a mental healthcare professional. You could be suffering from depression or anxiety induced by the lockdown and it would be in the best interest of your health, and that of those digitally connected with you, if you seek help for that as swiftly as possible.
The views expressed are the author's own.