‘Can I watch a film knowing that the actresses in it were terrorized and mistreated the entire duration of the shoot? Can I eat at the fancy new taco place knowing that the building which once stood there got bulldozed and eight families got kicked out of their homes so they could be replaced with a multi-million restaurant chain? Can I listen to my favourite albums anymore, after reading that the singers were all beating their wives in-between studio sessions? Can I wear those affordable clothes I bought online that were probably, most definitely, assembled by child labourers in a third-world country’s warehouse? Can I drink this bottled water? Can I use this plastic-bag even though it’s not biodegradable? Can I use a car and drive to class because I’m just so sick of taking public transport again and again? Whose bones do I stand on? Whose bones am I standing on right now? Am I doing enough?’
With the internet-driven information era prevailing upon us, data as well as information comes in waves, lapping at us at first, as if teasing, then before we know it, it slowly surrounds, swallows, and gulps us whole, and as follows, in all the pandemonium it can get immensely difficult to resurface. Subsequently, with so much content being generated and uploaded every minute, the challenge that the internet casts upon us is the ability to keep up. Can you keep up though? Or rather should you keep up? That’s the answer we’re discerning today. To begin with, it is indeed the truth that with the internet, everyone can access all information they need, when they need it. While this has proven beneficial to the majority, it has also turned into a cause of concern for a few. For instance, a lot of young people, today, use the internet for activism- utilizing their platforms to communicate and connect with thousands of citizens; aiming to spread a particular social message; raising funds, organizing events, etc. But the thing is, aside from it being helpful, it has also led to an overload of information.
Information overload or infobesity is a creature that has been growing on the internet’s back since its beginning and the bigger the internet gets, the more information there is. Currently, with the pandemic in full force, people have nowhere but to occupy the virtual walls that the internet provides and consequently, we’ve seen online activism reach newer heights during this time. There is no surprise in knowing that activism comes naturally to the youth. Historically, young people have long been leaders and catalysts of important movements. The only difference is- today they’re using the internet as a tool. From truth and reconciliation to inclusion and diversity, and mental health, there is nothing that remains unvoiced. Yet there still exists the notion of ‘doing enough’ and along with it the activist guilt that follows. ‘The wildfires in California are catastrophic but didn’t I just read about massive crop failures in Africa? How are people even surviving there? Should I talk about it? Will simply talking about it be enough? Am I doing enough? Will it ever be enough?’ If you, like me, are an active consumer of all content online then I’m sure you must’ve found yourselves asking these same questions time and again.
On one hand, it is a privilege to be able to only hear or read about these terrible world issues, instead of experiencing them first-hand. But on the other, one must realize that acknowledging and recognizing this privilege doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. Additionally, even choosing to get involved is unquestionably your own choice and one that you are free to make. However, it is crucial to realize that the ‘option’ of getting involved also carries a scent of privilege around it, because you may always have that choice of ‘getting involved’ whereas some people are born into it, birthed with it- they become activists because they’ve seen societal issues gnawing at them, tormenting them- thus they keep fighting for things which come so easily to us. But to think that maybe what you’re doing is not enough and feeling guilty about how active your involvement is- is not only disadvantageous but can also hinder your mental health. ‘We do what we can’ is a saying that I came across some time ago and I think, it best describes the attitude that one must carry whenever they’re dealing with remorse over not ‘doing enough’. Doing what you can is so much better than giving up entirely or not doing anything at all just because you can’t do it perfectly.
Ultimately, the need of the moment is to understand that purity is one of the worst, most harmful myths that humans ever invented. As long as people are people and living their flawed, erroneous lives- many of them consumed by greed- there will not be anything in this world, untouched by evil. Because if you dig deep enough, there’s something bad about everything, because if you keep disinterring the ground, you’ll unearth mountains which no one knew existed. And as long as we live in fallacious, antiutopian human societies, we’ve got to make the best of what they offer us. If you have the choice and means to support those who do good, then do it, but also don’t beat yourself up over not living up to an unattainable ideal. No one does. It’s certain that you will simply make yourself so miserable, that you either burn up and stop fighting entirely or you’ll turn into a non-productive distressed heap out of a bleeding heart left unchecked.