I am Angry Not at the Video, But at You For Sharing It
It was the very same day that I saw the very same video repeating over and over on almost every social media channel. WhatsApp? Yes. Facebook? Yes. Twitter? Yes. Instagram? Yes.
I am talking about the same video which even got many celebrities interested. The one where a child was sobbing continuously and begging her mother to calm down while teaching her but the mother had supposedly crossed the calm mark and was all out of patience.
If you are residing in India or have friends or relatives staying in India, you must have seen the video too. With all the sharing and retweeting and reposting, the video spread over the social media like a wildfire. I am not exaggerating, swear to God. My father, who is a caveman with regards to social media, too stumbled upon the video. So yes, like a wildfire.
Now here’s the irony. How is it possible that at social media, the place where facts and alternate facts spread like a wildfire (and that too not like a forest wildfire, like a GoT wildfire instead), the outcome of that wildfire is always the same – trolling. You might want to call it expressing opinion but I prefer calling it trolling because at the end of the day, that is what it is. For most of us, our comments do not suggest solutions; they only reek of our own superiority complex, and hence trolling. I won’t lie, I am a culprit too.
So even for this particular video, from all that uncontrolled volatile fire, the result was trolling of everything imaginable and unimaginable. People trolled about something as silly as why the child was dressed the way she was. People trolled about something as complex as the education system of India. People trolled about everything that comes in between.
All that while when entire India was engrossed in this deeply intellectual trolling, what was I doing? Well, I…I wasn’t really looking at the video. I just kept looking at the child’s face in the video and I kept wondering why on earth we are sharing a child’s face on social media. And especially on Facebook. Pardon me, but somewhere in my mind, WhatsApp is like a local playground. It is irrelevant, anyone from anywhere can share anything there and it doesn’t matter. But Facebook for me is like a proper sports stadium. People are well educated, knowledgeable. The kind that should know better.
And so I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that how recklessly the image of a child is posted everywhere on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram on the name of social vigilance.
Maybe you think that I am naïve, seriously naïve. There are bigger things to worry about – there are culprit mothers that have to be brought to justice, there are abused children to be handed over to child protection services (if such a thing exists in India) and an entire country’s education system to be overhauled. And all I am worried about is this small insignificant thing – the face of the child. So what? There are zillions of images of children floating over the internet. One more shouldn’t matter. Reposting a child’s video shouldn’t matter.
Sadly, it does. Online image safety for children matters. This is how –
The picture of the child may be stolen, used without parent’s consent and can lead to identity theft. Read The Disturbing Facebook trend of Stolen Kid’s Photos.
The image of the child might end up on pornographic sites. Read Riverton Mom Finds Kids’ Pictures on Porn Sites.
Even the most innocent family videos and photos of children are under risk of being sexualised by paedophiles. Read Paedophiles Trawl Social Media for Family Photos Warns eSafety Commisioner and Misuse of Social Media with Photos of Children Comes to Light.
The more the video is shared, the more are the chances for the child’s identity to be revealed to anyone lurking over social media. Don’t get me even started on the numerous direct and indirect risks that can lead to.
The biggest risk, once you share it, you can’t take it back. You can delete it or hide it from your timeline, but thanks to you (or rather unthanks to you), the video is forever stuck in the world wide web.
By sharing the video, you created a digital identity for that child without taking consent from her or her parents. You are worried about a mother not taking her daughter’s feeling into account. Did YOU take that poor girl’s feelings into account? Do you think when she grows up she would like to be known as “that cry baby who got the scolding of a lifetime?”
What if, when she grows up, she gets horrified to see this video. What if, she forever feels the weight of the judgement being passed on her and her mother by strangers. What if, this impacts the way she lives her real and virtual life, not necessarily in a good way. Do you see it what we internet’s vigilant citizens did? We did not only troll her mother, we trolled that little girl’s future self as well.
Another argument can be, that the whole thing started when the child’s mother shared the video (maybe), so only the mother and just the mother should be blamed. Well, her mother posted it once, but it is we that made it viral. We, and of course Virender Sehwag and Shikhar Dhawan. So if mother deserves hell, we too deserve a place there.
Were we really so much concerned about the child, had we really wanted a constructive dialogue on this situation, we should have done either of these three things –
Post our two cents on our wall WITHOUT posting the video of the child;
Stop being the lazy click-share-post species we had become; use the editing skills we use while posting our pictures; and blur out the face of the child and then post the video.
Walked over to the child begging at a street near you or a child working at the construction site you pass on your way to office or to the child at the nukkad who gives you your cutting chai every evening, and make life better for that child. (Inspired by Shobha Rana Grover’s post)
Do you still think I am being naïve? My stand on the issue being beside the point? My assumption that there are dark forces lurking at every nook and corner of the internet, waiting to pounce over the images that I share of my child is too far-fetched? Once children’s author Philip Pullman was annoyed that the world assume that “the default position of one human being to another is predatory rather than kindness.” Call it pessimism or call it mommy brain, I assume it too and that is all I am worried about.