TAG EVERY RAHUL/ANKIT/SAMEER YOU KNOW. THEY NEED TO READ THIS

In what has become one of the most baffling trends to have taken over Facebook in recent times- the offensive, unfunny, insensitive and downright nasty memes asking people to tag Rahuls/Ankits/Sameers et al in posts carrying pictures of women who don’t fit the ideal image of perhaps a Photoshopped model on Vogue, has left not just myself, but many with a bitter taste. One cursory glance through the comment section of these posts is enough to make you question the value system of people who are actively engaging in these memes. What’s even worse is that many don’t even grasp why jokes like these are extremely deleterious.

“WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM WITH THESE MEMES? THEY ARE HARMLESS”

No, they aren’t harmless. They are utterly racist, full of comments indicating bigotry, reflecting a parochial mindset and reek of bullying. By mostly keeping overweight, coloured women as the basis for the joke, it reinforces the notion of attributing a person’s worth to merely his/her appearance. For anyone who even remotely resembles the subject of mockery in these memes, it can trigger self-esteem issues, push them into depression and cause lifelong psychological challenges. Childmind.org details the impact social media has on the self-esteem of most teenagers. Moreover, in the wake of the recent attack on Nigerians in the NCR, it becomes more and more difficult for us to defend the notion that we, the second most populous nation, aren’t racists, prejudiced towards people with fair skin and biased towards those who aren’t.

“WHAT ABOUT COMEDY SUB-GENRES LIKE BLACK COMEDY AND INSULT COMEDY? I DON’T SEE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT THEM”

Black comedy has its roots in scepticism and cynicism, choosing to poke fun at issues that may be considered taboo within societal constructs. While it isn’t quite the stuff that makes one introspect, it generally revolves around issues that highlights the underlying hypocrisy of people. I don’t quite find any long-lasting psychological damage culminating from it.

As far as insult comedy and the trend of roasts is concerned, what you may miss out on is the fact that most of the roasts treat the audience as a fly on the wall. The comedians and the ‘roastee’ are complicit in their agreement pertaining to the jokes, that mainly circle around the public controversies that surround the celebrity in question. Not to forget that the celebrity is remunerated heftily and that such roasts are more of a PR campaign rather than an excuse to poke fun at their stardom and their (not so private) missteps.

“IF IT IS SO OFFENSIVE INDEED, HOW DO YOU JUSTIFY THE INVOLVEMENT OF SO MANY PEOPLE IN SUCH JOKES?”

Herd mentality. That explains the massive following it attracts. Psychology has long discussed the impact of conformity and how people tend to de-individualize themselves in a crowd. You must look into experiments like the Asch conformity experiment. Once people feel they are a part of a larger crowd, it doesn’t take them too long to adopt the mannerisms and thought process of those surrounding them. Its almost as if they lose any sense of personal identity. In this article(click here), the writer discusses how quickly the wisdom of the masses can turn into the stupidity of mobs.

Also contributing to this success is the Bystander effect.

“The bystander effect, or bystander apathy, is a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help when other people are present.”

With the entire internet becoming a soundboard of myriad opinions and tastes, the onus of taking initiative to oppose a popular viewpoint becomes difficult, as one usually expects someone else to do that. You feel that by ‘liking’ the comment of someone who tacitly agrees with you, you have appropriately and sufficiently acted as per the situation.

“IT’S ONLY AN ONGOING TREND. SOON, SOMETHING ELSE WILL COME UP AND THIS WILL BE FORGOTTEN. WHY ARE YOU WORRIED?”

I’m worried because people aren’t aware of the power their words carry. I had written about it in an article before (The dynamics of online debating. And why I hesitate to participate sometimes). I had talked of Justine Sacco (you can read it here), who had tweeted a joke that eventually turned her life topsy-turvy, and to this date, haunts her. She still struggles with finding jobs, dating people and just living a normal life.

Heidi Yeh is another cautionary tale amongst many. Upon being made the butt of a widely circulated meme, implying Heidi’s infidelity towards her husband, Heidi not only struggled with being labelled as a promiscuous girl but was also dumped by her then boyfriend.

Therefore, it is imperative that people must realize the collective and individual strength of their actions. People may swiftly move on to the next item on the bucket list of funny trends in 2017 but the ramifications of their crude, bullying ways can hurt someone for an inconceivably long time.

“WHAT CAN BE DONE FROM THIS POINT ONWARDS?”

It is absolutely crucial that we stop liking, commenting on and sharing such memes. For those around us that we see indulging in it, we must explain why they mustn’t do that. It’s much easier to discuss this with an acquaintance or a friend, versus a random stranger on the internet. We must appeal to the conscience of people to think better of it and to reflect for a mere minute before they go and comment something imprudent, just to come across as witty.

So, to every Rahul/Ankit/Sameer that has ever been tagged, tag your friends in this article post and make them realize the folly of their ways. And to pacify the curiosity of all those who were tagging their friends in those memes, just to settle it for once and for all, I really don’t think that the Academy award nominated Gabourey Sidibe needs your help in finding her a suitor. I’m pretty sure a woman of her talent and success can do it by herself. But thanks for your concern.