We have seen it all unfold on our Instagram stories each time something bad happens. You open your Instagram, scroll through your feed and there it is, someone raging over police brutality in X part of the country or some cut throat debate over the rights of someone’s body. We take this with rage and anger, because anger it is something visceral. And channeling this anger and fury, we take to our own Instagram stories and lash it out on the perpetrator. This leads to a cycle of events, a ride on which I will take you as you read further.
Pair of shoes and algorithms
Imagine this: Let’s say you want to buy a pair of shoes. Looking all over the internet for the perfect fitting, you browse through various shopping websites and you look at hundreds of different pairs. You might also send a picture to one of your friends, asking them what they think of it, about how it would look on you and what not. You might take a day or more to deliberate too. What happens is, all the data of your browsing history is chained to your phone where you might look for those shoes.
It is common knowledge now to look for something to buy and have it show up on your Facebook feed or in Instagram story ads. Let us take it a step further by applying this to what kind of content you consume: it can be Masterchef videos to whether or not CAA/NRC is unconstitutional.
Pineapple on pizza Vs no pineapple on pizza
Let us assume that you fall in the category that thinks that eating pineapple on pizza is cool, as long as it is consented and not forced down someone’s throat. There is a good chance that your friends who also follow you on social media agree with you and your thoughts resonate with them too. Now, the kind of content you consume will also fall in line with your idea. You either look for, or ‘accidentally’ find various pages that also propagate the same idea and you follow them. Similar content starts showing up on your Explore feed, in your conversations with other people in the virtual spaces and you just might ‘speak-up’ about how it is wrong to shame people for their choices. You now have, around yourself in the virtual space, created inevitably an echo-chamber for yourself.
This is just a simple demonstration of how echo chambers work. Sure, dissent does follow but just as easy as it is to follow someone and ping them up saying that you agree with their train of thought, it is equally easier to unfollow someone too; thereby silencing that voice of dissent that could have also been a voice of reason. This leads to further sealing of this echo chamber that you have built around yourself. The short click and instant responses in forms of Likes, Comments and Story replies do not help us in introspecting what we put out and what we consider to be justice. And no sooner than later the pineapple is a rape allegation and the stories you put up are for the same, calling for shaming in a fit of rage over the people who shame people for shaming someone who likes pineapple on their pizza.
The root cause of the problem
The problem with the so-called speaking up on social media begins from the very place we get our news from: social media echo chambers. Each of us are rightfully entitled to our own beliefs and ideals, and we follow them in a manner that does not open us to other interpretations. The conglomeration of ideas on social media leads to the formation of public spaces or pages propagating the same. This then leads to a large following of people who agree with such ideas, eventually blocking out other sources of reason or information, leading to the formation of an echo chamber. If the current social media echo chambers were to be analysed, we would end up with two on each end of debates: conservative right vs liberal left, feminists vs anti-feminists, people who like pineapple on their pizza vs people who don’t.
So what can be a solution to this?
The root cause of the problem is sourcing your news from social media, where more often than not the statements are tinged with some form of bias when presenting. Read more from news papers and legitimate sources, instead of the pages who self-proclaim their journalism while pumping inaccurate facts and misinformation to serve their purpose. Read beyond newspapers to get an understanding of the deeper background of problems before you channel your range into Instagram stories. And remember that raging on social media hardly counts as justice and speaking up requires the trodding of your thoughts from social media IRL and that is equally, if not more important.