A few years ago, I would have launched into a rant on social media about how people need to educate themselves about challenges they participate in. Needless to say, I probably wouldn’t have participated myself. I would have dismissed the whole thing as lame, attention-seeking and mindless.
In short, I would have been a judgemental a*hole.
Today, I feel differently. Because while I may have felt conflicted (as I mention in my Instagram post) about the intention of #challengeaccepted, I understand a lot more about online behaviour today than I did a decade ago. And while I wish people (myself included) could make the effort to fully understand trends, concepts and challenges before participating, that’s simply not how ideas ferment, transform and take shape into content that speaks personally to each one of us.
Like many people whose jobs are even remotely associated with social media, I too have had my share of conversations about about “making things go viral”. There is no formula: something goes viral because it has the ability to make the viewer/reader/consumer feel a certain emotion which compels them to want to share it with their networks. Apply the same principle here! In this case, there are a hundred reasons why a woman could have participated in this challenge – for me, it was the following: there was no obvious brand plug so it felt harmless enough, a few friends had reached out privately to tag me so I felt seen and loved, and it gave me a reason to go back and look for an image that genuinely made me feel good about myself. But these were just *my* reasons. I saw posts from people that tagged local female entrepreneurs, and so many others who genuinely posted captions that spoke of positivity, uplifting each other and more.
Does the original intention get diluted in the process?
Yes, it does.
But I also believe that the only we we can move forward is to always find opportunities to educate and offer more pieces of the puzzle up for consumption as we navigate our way through this social media maze. *Without* shaming people in the process. In the last few days, I’ve learnt that there could be several reasons for why the challenge tag re-surfaced. According to the NYTimes, “Cristine Abram, a public relations and influencer marketing manager for Later, a social media marketing firm, said that a video of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking out against Representative Ted Yoho’s sexist remarks against her on the floor of Congress last week led to a spike in social media posts about feminism and female empowerment”. You can read my own analysis of her communication techniques used in the speech in the post below:
The other explanation is the movement in Turkey to create awareness of the brutal murder of a 27-year-old student named Pinar Gültekin. According to The Guardian, Pinar was “beaten and then strangled to death by her former partner, Cemal Metin Avci, who then burned her body in a garbage bin and covered it in concrete.” Her death is one amongst the rising cases of femicide in the country that is trying to roll back a “legal framework designed to protect victims and effectively prosecute offenders, known as the Istanbul Convention“. Turkey was amongst the first to adopt this convention in 2011, but the current political regime believes that the Istanbul Convention is a threat to “family values”. Women in Turkey began sharing black-and-white pictures of themselves in solidarity with Pinar and all the victims of femicide who appear as black-and-white images in news reports covering their murders the next day. The Quint reports that “The New York Times’ travel reporter Tariro Mzezewa tweeted that the Turkish hashtags about domestic violence and femicide were dropped as the challenge went viral and crossed borders. The original hashtags, in Turkish, translated to ‘Say No to Violence Against Women’ and ‘Enforce Istanbul Convention’.” As the challenge made its way across the world, these original hashtags were dropped.
If, like me, you shared a picture of yourself for this challenge then read up about what happened to Pinar, what’s happening to the women in Turkey and also what happened to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Share what you discover, spend time answering people’s questions about #womensupportingwomen and #femaleempowerment. The incidents above may have been direct triggers for the challenge to re-start in its current form, but it has morphed into many other things – some beautiful, some ugly, some vain, some judgemental and some encouraging.
Featured image source: The Independent