Just after the explosive blast in Beirut that created a mushroom of smoke over the city’s sky and reportedly killed 50 people, social media went viral with social media users posting images of the Lebanon flag, videos of the blast, emojis of the Lebanon flag and prayers. As I scrolled through prayers for Beirut and solidarity posts on my Instagram feed, I found a post by a male influencer captioned “Prayers” with a video of the blast which had around fifteen hashtags. One of those hashtags particularly stood out #sportsnews, for its irrelevance and insensitivity. How was a blast in Lebanon even remotely related to sports news? There was no point in asking because I already knew the answer. The hashtag #sportsnews is a popular hashtag with 616k posts and it was used to increase reach and get more engagement on the Beirut blast post by the influencer. The irrelevant hashtag was not just a mistake, and my conversation with the influencer via direct message only made my mental accusation on him of “performative wokeness” more real.

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I commented on the influencer’s post publicly calling him out and asking why the hashtag #Sportsnews was used on the post related to a blast in Beirut in which 50 people had reportedly died. Using irrelevant hashtags passes a wrong message to followers on social media. Instead of replying to comment publicly, the male influencer decided to take it with me over direct message where he gaslighted me. He tried to shut me down by calling me “hysterical” and asking me to “relax”. This completely broke me down and made me feel like I was being insane by arguing with him over something as small as a hashtag. But I kept my ground and continued explaining to him about how the hashtag was insensitive. “People are dying and this is not a sport. Why have you used the hashtag #sportsnews?” when the news is not related to sports.

“The hashtags I use are created by an optimiser to increase my reach”, he immediately said giving his true self away. There was no question anymore. He was using the blast in Beirut to increase his reach on Instagram, even if it meant using irrelevant hashtags which were not related to the blast. The post was not a prayer, it wasn’t for solidarity, it was for himself to create a self-serving image among his followers, to get more followers by pretending to be empathetic, he was performing wokeness to get social validation. Content aimed at increasing followers masqueraded as a prayer for a country facing the aftermath of an explosive blast is the lowest point I’ve seen social media touch in a while. The last was when I realised that Priyanka Chopra was performing wokeness during the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

When Priyanka Chopra was called out for performative wokeness during the Black Lives Matter campaign, I was heartbroken at first. It took me days to accept that her content on social media was devised to help her connect with her followers and increase reach. After I accepted this, I just posted a comment on the already flooding hate on her “Black lives matter” post, calling her out on “performative wokeness” and unfollowed her. Unfollowing one of my biggest inspirations on social media, made unfollowing other performative woke influencers easy for me. Had it been only the performative wokeness, I would have called out the male influencer who posted about the Beirut blast and unfollowed him, the matter would have ended there. But he had gaslighted me over direct message and I had to stand up for myself.

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Pretending to stand for women empowerment and then gaslighting a woman who is stating her opinions portrays the deeper reality of people performing wokeness. The persona created to serve themselves crumbles, and their true self shows with their uneducated, disempowering sides which reflect strongly on their real attitudes. The male influencer did not apologise to me when I called him out on gaslighting. He deleted my public comment from his Beirut blast post (or should I say, self-serving post to increase followers) and blocked my profile altogether. I did not even get the chance to unfollow him, which gives me a certain sense of pleasure, because I feel like it’s a move towards justice.

Previously, I had trusted the male influencer who used the inappropriate hashtag to be “woke” since they posted content about menstruation, climate change, women empowerment and several other social issues. However, seeing the hashtag #Sportsnews on a post about the Beirut blast made me feel like I had wasted my time following this influencer altogether. This experience makes me feel like all the previous “woke” content posted by this influencer was only created to increase his followers.

The sad reality on social media is that this male influencer is not the only one who is using the Beirut blast video to increase followers. Many more social media influencers are creating content on the explosive Beirut blast which is “trending” on social media. Performative influencers try to monetize on the trending topic by showing as much empathy as they can, to as many followers as they can with the ultimate goal of increasing their reach.

The explosive blast in Beirut which has reportedly killed 50 people is numbing. It is so numbing that I will take a while before I can process my emotions and talk to people about it. I will never be ready to see a #sportsnews hashtag on any Beirut blast post, and performative woke influencers need to realise that an explosive blast in the world, has taken lives beyond social media, which are very real and exist beyond social media posts and trends.

Views expressed are the author’s own. Our readers write. SheThePeople doesn’t take responsibility of their views. 

Picture Credit: Indian Express

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