Privileged's hashtag culture demeans real-world problems

2015-09-04 09:05

The world has many problems. Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams music video is not one of them.

The controversy around the video, arising from an apparent “glamourisation of a white colonial fantasy of Africa”, is simply the latest in a long line of manufactured internet outrages, the source of which can usually be traced to overeducated, over-privileged millennials whiling away their days with acerbic stabs at social conscience.

One wonders if these self-styled justice warriors ever pause to consider that 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day, or that as they sit comfortably scouring the internet for the smallest nugget of scandal millions of people are fretting over how they will afford schooling for their children or where their next meal will come from.

It is quite incredible that where the internet should have brought people closer together, it has instead only emphasised the divide between the haves and the have-nots by widening the gap between what the former thinks matters and what actually matters to those whose daily struggles are all too real.

We find ourselves in a situation where the world’s most pressing issues have dissolved into an interminable series of hashtags - #bringbackourgirls, #jesuischarlie, #refugeeswelcome, the list goes on and on – but to what end?

Harrowing situations rightly deserving of attention have been relegated to individual or group status updates, ostensibly to show that account holders care. However, to whom is this perception important?

The concept of “creating awareness” is all very well and good, but if there is no follow-through and efforts wane in the face of the next big trend (for that is what global issues have become), then serious questions have to be asked of privileged users’ motivations.

In Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio, as Jordan Belfort, says, “You see money doesn’t just buy you a better life, better food, better cars, better women, it makes you actually a better person. You can give generously to your church or political party of your choice”.

There is something of that mindset in what we are seeing playing out on the internet today.

A holier-than-thou attitude has emerged from within the ranks of affluent web users, one that seeks to point out in others qualities that do not meet their own standards of social nirvana. The problem lies in the fact that they are completely out of touch with the realities of people on the ground.

It is highly doubtful that a single mother working two jobs to put her children through school would be too concerned with a music video, or even whether an advertisement for a ballpoint pen was deemed too sexist. For her, keeping her head above water for another day is reward enough.

Preoccupations with what may or should cause offence over trivialities is irresponsible, and quite frankly, demeaning to plights of such people.

Stepping out from behind the keyboard and witnessing first-hand what so many have to endure would surely bring back some much-needed perspective.

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