Raising Awareness Over Here; Be Aware

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Social media is a wonderful thing, when it’s used correctly. Bringing people together who might be geographically distant. Encouraging public debate on topical issues. Telling that person you used to sit next to in school that one time, about how you hate your boss and that Steve fella in the office who always robs your spoon. It’s not his spoon, it’s your spoon. Why does Steve think it’s ok to take you spoon? Ok, maybe there are some things that no one other than you really cares about, and maybe it would be no great loss to the world if we didn’t know your inner most ramblings. However, frame that in the right way, and it’s a window into your soul. It’s who you really are. It’s the little things that wind us up or make us happy that make us what we truly are.

But then there is a dark side to social media. It’s a side that no one readily admits to, and always points the finger at someone else who is doing it; image building. A tweet here full of designer brands, an Instagram pic of a coffee with the Jaguar logo on your steering wheel just creeping into shot, or a Facebook post about that designer store where the service is always terrible. I have a personal disdain for this type of post, but in the end, I don’t really care. The people who are taken in by this type of post aren’t really my cup of tea, so even this can be turned into a positive of social media. Enough research and you can filter out these people from your life, without having to put all that time and effort in getting to know them, before you realise they really are just an empty vessel making a lot of noise.

However, to quote Peter Griffin, what really grinds my gears is the “raise awareness” tweet. A couple of years ago, Facebook was awash with pictures of babies with “days to live,” or a 20 something with an “inoperable tumour” or a soldier with dreadful injuries. Now I’m not doubting that at their very heart, some of these pictures were an accurate representation of the description. I’m not getting at the person in the picture. No, what I am getting at is the person who put it on Facebook with the phrase “1 like = 1 respect.” Well, with the greatest respect, fuck off. What is that about? Again, sometimes there are genuine reasons to raise awareness about particular health problems, human rights breaches or other catastrophe that has befallen the unfortunate, and I’m absolutely endorsing the power of social media to be able to break down stigmas, bring people together and without sounding like a dodgy pop song, to make the world a better place. I’m talking about the companies or individuals that want to capitalise on the inherent goodness of those around them, to manipulate an image from which they can capitalise on. It seems to, or maybe I’ve become immune to it, have settled down somewhat as people have cottoned on to what was really happening in these schemes to get likes. Or has it just switched platforms?

At the moment, there is a campaign for #BringBackOurGirls. Now, let me make it clear, I am 100% behind the governments of the world getting together and doing something about this situation and returning all of those girls in Nigeria back to their families. But the raise awareness tweet? What is that? The story has been in mainstream media. It is a story that certainly your average person is at least familiar with. (By average person, I would refer to the legal definition of the reasonable man; the man on the Clapham omnibus.) There is a twitter campaign with the aforementioned hashtag, which has been tweeted by numerous celebrities, but most crucially of all, in it’s very early stages it was tweeted by the First Lady of the United States of America. Now forgive me, but when the wife of the most powerful man in the western world tweets this, then we can be quite certain that there is a great deal of awareness of this issue, in the places that matter. And when I say places that matter, I mean in the corridors of power that can affect change. So we can be agreed that the hashtag has been a positive thing upto this point. We have seen America commit agents from the FBI to help with the investigation, we have seen similar pledges from other countries including the UK. Everyone is very aware. So why do I still see the hashtag and the plea to raise awareness? This is not a political cause, everyone is agreed on the atrocity itself. No one is giving it it’s blessing. The governments of the world are aware. So who is the tweet directed at? Boko Haram maybe? Are they going to be convinced by tweets? No. Is there already an operation to rescue these girls? Yes. So once again, I ask who are the tweets aimed at?

Now you could argue that I’m just a cynic, but at this stage in the situation, the tweets to raise awareness are no different than the tweet about that new “insert designer name here” bag that you’ve just bought. It’s an exercise in brand management, except in this case the brand is you. Not you personally, as a reader, if you are guilty of this, then I’m fairly certain I lost you after a few lines further up the page. If you want to comment on the situation then fine, comment. If you want to tweet Barack Obama and tell him to get a shift on, that’s fine, twitter will let you. But please, don’t frame it as an attempt that you are raising awareness and are engaging in public debate to keep the topic at the forefront of the political agenda. You’re really not. You know it, I know it. You’re presenting your public image. Again, by all means present a public image, but there are certain things that to the objective viewer, don’t improve your image, it just shines the spotlight on the rotten human being that you really are.

Actually, what am I saying? It makes it easier to identify the rotten eggs if they’ve all get shining beacons of toxic-ness emanating from their social media posts! Yeah, actually, keep it up!

Oh and Steve, stop stealing the fucking spoons.

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