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Personal Stories

Societal Standards & the complexity of teen life

Every society has a set of standards to which it is expected that its members will conform. A common occurrence in my life is having that fear inside about what they will think if I am unable to accomplish those standards. This crippling anxiety inside occurs when I sit down and try to relax or when I’m watching a series or a movie. It escalates to the point where nothing makes sense and I have the feeling that whatever I do, it is not going to amount to anything. 

It is common in Indian society for people to have certain expectations and the worst part is that it is always gender related. My mistake in this process is being a progressive-thinking person. I was very open-minded in every aspect, which was not liked by some people. The question which always ran in my mind was, “Why are these few people affecting my mental process?” If I had the answer to that question, everything would have been better, right? Or what if we lived in a society where people just accepted everyone for who they are? Wouldn’t all of us be living in a less toxic, safer and a more inclusive environment by now?

Some quick background: I am going to pursue law, and to do that, one must enroll themselves into CLAT (common law admission test). I applied for CLAT, and another private law college, and during that time, everyone used to say that I would surely get into the private school. That was the first time I felt pressure to show society that I had accomplished something.

The day of the interview came and I became so nervous that my mind went pitch black. I did not answer any of the questions properly. I just shut my laptop and cried. I could not breathe. When I told my parents, my father told me there were so many other options, but the only thing going around my mind was: “How am I supposed to tell people that I did not get into the university?”

As every teenager can relate, it is very hard carrying that burden in the family, especially in my case.

I come from a family where my cousins are either much older than me or way younger, so it only makes sense that I am kind of like the middle child there. I never felt I fit in with either side of the family because I cannot act like my older cousins or my younger ones. But I always wanted to fit into my family somehow. The main reason I was so desperate to fit in was because in school I genuinely did not know if anyone liked me. I only had a handful of people whom I was comfortable with. When the lockdown was imposed, I wanted to reconnect with my peers, but after a while I stopped trying.

I used to envy when my other batch mates would hang out with their groups, and sometimes I even felt lonely and ashamed to tell other people I didn’t have that. I had a complicated high school experience. Although I can’t deny there were happy moments, incidents of bullying always made me feel a hole inside. I thought the feelings I felt were normal, and I never reached out to someone.

I could not move on from the fact that I got rejected from the university and at times I was completely burnt out. I would either sleep, binge watch a series, or have a breakdown about the fact that I did not want to move forward and prepare for my next objective (CLAT). There were sleepless nights where I would have anxiety and stress about what would happen if I did not get into any college. I had to endure all of this just because I put the expectations of society in front of me. I put the unrealistic standards of society (which is pretty normal and generalized to other students as well) in front of me, and it resulted in me having a negative mindset.

There are so many other things as well, starting from how you look to what you wear. Everything is always questioned by people. Especially by your family members. For example, I am a person who strongly believes that makeup is not a necessity for myself. All I want is to feel comfortable in my own skin, but spoiler alert- the others will make sure you don’t. From constantly wearing makeup every time I go out, to eating less than what is necessary to make sure I reduce my weight, this lockdown has been an eye opener to so many things around me. I just realized that at the end of the day, people are always going to judge you for every action and step you take. But it is completely up to you whether you put yourself first, or the expectations of a judgmental society.  

This is my complicated teenage era that I went through and am still going through. But everything to me was a learning process. I feel that because of this I changed myself for the better every day. Now it feels that everything around me is clearer: I have my family and my handful of friends. Numbers do not matter anymore. There were times when I felt like giving up. Times when pushing people away was normal. But one of the biggest mistakes I made was not reaching out to anyone about it. So, if you are reading this, I encourage you to reach out to a person whom you trust and love. Whatever the situation, feelings are yours, you have the right to feel that certain way, and there is nothing stopping you from reaching out.

Written by Ann.

Edited by Miriam Itzkowitz and Tiffany Leveille.

Graphics by Tiffany Leveille.

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Articles

How the Ocean Set Fire

As we scan through our social media feeds, it is clear that environmental issues are becoming an inevitable crisis. Every day, our environment faces many problems, many of which appear to be posing more risk over time, bringing us closer to a real emergency. As the current generation, it is becoming increasingly vital to promote awareness of these issues and reduce their negative impacts.

If you are caught up on what’s been happening around the world, you would know that on Friday, July 2nd, the ocean was literally “ablaze” in the Gulf of Mexico. A gas leak broke out from an underwater pipeline, managed by Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, causing a ring of fire to churn on the ocean’s surface at 5:15 am local time. This pipeline connects to a platform at Pemex’s flagship, Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, which is the country’s most important. Images of the bright orange flames, resembling molten lava, quickly filled up all social media feeds, along with pictures of ships trying to put out the fire with water and nitrogen. People also called out its resemblance to the Eye of Sauron, known from the ever so popular The Lord of the Rings. Dubbed as the “Eye of Fire” due to its circular shape, the fire took more than a whopping five hours to put out, finally ending at 10:30 am local time.

Pemex has stated that there was “no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage.” Having said so, the company is investigating the cause of this leak. This incident comes as an inevitability, resulting from relying on underwater fossil fuel pipelines inherently, jeopardizing ocean life and everything else that depends on it.

Why are pipelines present underwater in the first place?

Natural gas and crude oil can be found in deposits under the sea bed, and because the fossil fuel deposits can be found offshore, deep under the ocean floor, there are offshore drilling rigs. Pipelines funnel fossil fuels from drilling platforms to onshore facilities on land, where the crude material is refined and shipped. This industrial exploitation began in 1897, but in the 21st century, drilling has moved further into the ocean, threatening different kinds of marine wildlife. The drilling discharges affect ocean biodiversity, and the pipelines pose a threat to the survival of coral reefs. 

This “Eye of Fire” has gained local and international criticism. Greenpeace Mexico, a branch of the non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 55 countries, accused Pemex of causing “ecocide” in the Gulf of Mexico, citing the toxic properties and climate impact of methane gas. It blamed the rupture on aging, poorly maintained infrastructure and raised concerns about the harm leaked methane could have caused to marine life.

Can we ethically claim this incident as a freak accident?

There is no possibility that this type of incident cannot occur again. Gas leaks are something that has happened innumerable times in the past. Especially if you take the case of Pemex, this isn’t the only accident. They have a long history of terrible and deadly accidents. Greta Thunberg wrote on her Twitter, “Meanwhile, the people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines, and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites. This is the world they are leaving for us.” Voices of discontent and negative comments come from supporters of a tightening global effort to save the environment. While community action alone couldn’t have stopped the fire in the Gulf of Mexico, this should be a sign for our governments and authority bodies to be working alongside our communities, not against them. 

Pemex said the fire took more than five hours to extinguish. Angel Carrizales – the head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA – wrote on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any spill.” However, he did not explain what was burning on the water’s surface.

There is reason to be fearful of such events since we are not sure as to what the company was trying to do, the unmistakable sign that, as humans, we do not care enough about our planet. We have to understand that the disaster is not natural; a corporation and its greed caused it. 

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez called it, ‘the eye of fire’ wasn’t the first time the ocean was on fire, and it most certainly will not be the last. Oil and gas leaks have occurred numerous times in the past 50 years, often related to oil tankers catching on fire and releasing crude oil into the ocean. Perhaps the most famous oil spill also happened in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater crisis in 2010, after an explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil drill.

Corporations are significant entities globally, and we have to acknowledge their enormous impact (negative and positive) on all our lives. The concerns of overly corporate-led globalization and its contribution to environmental issues increase, especially since the climate crisis has received much more media coverage. There are countless examples where corporate involvement in various issues could contribute to environmental problems. Therefore, we must hold corporations accountable for the problems caused by them. 

Unfettered capitalism is an issue that has been long affecting the lives of everyone on this planet. The world’s top firms cause approximately two trillion in environmental damages, according to a census done in 2010. These companies estimate that around one-third of their profits would be lost if they were made to pay for the damages they have caused. This is a significant reason why companies are not made to pay reparations.

What we can do as Gen Z :

We were made to believe that recycling a little and not using plastic straws can save the world. Even though that is a part of cleaning up the planet, it plays a minimal role if you compare it to the damage giant corporations have caused in the name of profit. As the future generation, we have to take charge of the movement.

Multiple organizations are taking a step to raise awareness about climate issues. The Sunrise Movement, Earth Guardians, and Zero Hour are examples of organizations of young people taking a stand for the better. Many Gen Z organizations all over the world are taking action. This goes beyond posting about it on social media. For example, The Green New Deal proposal would play a significant role in reducing the effects of climate change. Many politicians have been trying to push it ahead and need support, which Gen Z can provide. 

Raising awareness and self-educating is one of the first steps we can take as the youth of today. From protests and petitions to putting pressure on the government to take action, Gen Z is ready to fight for their planet’s future. Gen Z has the power to change the fate of our dying planet, and we must take it. If you wish to take action now, some links to websites to visit and petitions to sign are given below:

https://act.nrdc.org/sign/global-climate-action-190906

https://www.sunrisemovement.org

https://www.wwf.org.uk/fight-climate-change

https://instagram.com/ourrevolution?utm_medium=copy_link

This article was written by Rakshitha Raghunandan and Akanksha Pai

Edited by Amirah Khan

Graphics by Rachel

Sources:

https://www.inverse.com/science/ocean-on-fire-pipeline-burst

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/fire-offshore-pemex-platform-gulf-mexico-under-control-2021-07-02/

https://www.climatechangenews.com/2021/07/07/ocean-fire-exposes-weak-regulation-mexicos-oil-gas-sector/

https://newrepublic.com/article/162909/gulf-pemex-fire-pipeline-community-action

https://screenrant.com/lord-rings-sauron-eye-reason/

https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/greenpeace-slams-mexican-climate-climb-down-under-amlo/2-1-565866

https://futurism.com/oil-company-ocean-fire-history-death-accidents

https://www.ucsusa.org/take-action/climate-accountability

https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/on-the-climate-crisis-more-of-the-same-wont-work-we-need-a-revolution/

https://www.globalissues.org/article/55/corporations-and-the-environment

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Articles

Performative Activism and social media’s role in it

What is performative activism?

Performative activism refers to feel-good measures in support of a cause that have little practical effect other than to give the ‘activist’ a feeling of satisfaction that they have contributed to the cause.

It thereby requires minimal personal effort from the ‘slacktivist’. It includes things such as liking posts or pages on social media, reposting pre-existing content on stories or a charity organization’s request for support, signing internet petitions, wearing a ribbon, or even joining an organization but not actively contributing. It is also referred to as slacktivism – a combination of the words ‘slacking’ and ‘activism’. This was initially coined in 1995 by Fred Clark to refer to small activities by young people to affect society on a small personal scale. However, the term has developed a negative connotation to criticize online activism that lacks real commitment to a cause.

How social media plays a role in performative activism…

There are approximately 3.96 billion social media users worldwide, nearly double the number of social media users in 2015. The average person has 8.6 accounts on various social networking sites.

Recently, social media sites have taken up a more political and social context, revealing a rise in conversations about social and political issues such as MeToo, BLM, LGBTQIA+, StopAsianHate, climate change, gun violence, march outs, and more. Social media has become the forefront of so many movements even in countries that do not have freedom of speech. Thereby helping to create extensive communities to fight injustice. Social media has revolutionized activism in ways previously unthought of and given rise to a greater facilitation of civic engagement and collective action. It is a great platform for spreading a wider range of ideas, perspectives, and experiences. However, this has also led to a considerable amount of performative activism.

It’s trendy to go to protests…

Online ‘activism’ has now become a part of mainstream culture. It is considered being “woke” to go to protests and marches and to post pictures of oneself and their sign. It is now expected of every person to post or repost infographics on their stories or like several posts speaking about each specific issue. However, a mere hashtag or story repost is not a movement and frequently does not facilitate true change. The obligation to either “use your platform” or get “cancelled” leads to an abundance of performative posts. However, many times this dilutes the message instead of benefiting the cause by transforming it into a “disingenuous and passive protest that is usually limited to reposting digestive quotes and viral videos.”

So, is slacktivism causing more harm than we realize?

Pros of Performative Activism

The most evident benefit is that performative activism is the easiest way to spread and access information. An increasing number of people are becoming more progressive since the access to information and the ability to spread information has increased exponentially. Regardless of the size of one’s platform, everyone can participate in sharing information. It serves as a call for action and to show social solidarity for oppressed groups. A study published in 2015 studied how social media is a critical periphery in the growth of social protests.

Cons of Performative Activism

It is clearly discernible that performative activism is composed of inadequate efforts which tend to substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplement them. It is now possible for people to seem concerned over issues merely by liking a post which requires minimum effort and support. This gives rise to the question of whether this actually accomplishes anything or if the person has even actually read and understood the cause. Engaging in online activities that seem to support a cause but not being educated about the issue or carrying out actual productive actions in addition to reading the posts is insufficient.

With so many people posting on social media, a lot of the support for issues ends up feeling impersonal and ingenuine. It is far too easy to post or re-share something and then look away from the problem. As social media activism has grown, it has diffused individual responsibility to take action, leaving the real work to committed individuals who are personally affected. It also desensitizes us to brutal violence through the viral videos that are spread, sometimes without trigger warnings. 

A novel occurrence is the creation and circulation of Instagram infographics. These make use of strategies borrowed from consumer marketing with aesthetically pleasing colors and graphics, while providing information in a concise manner. They serve as an important tool to introduce people to social justice issues and in a way humanize serious matters without triggering anyone. However, this also leads to a further set of issues regarding whether people actually read them and go ahead to educate themselves beyond. It also leads to the question of whether such serious and tragic issues should be produced in an “aesthetic” package.

What role do corporations and influencers play?

Another important thing to address is the phenomenon of “influencers” and corporations faking activism. Over the last year, we saw several influencers setting up “impromptu” photoshoots in the middle of protests and rallies. Such actions come across as attention-seeking and shallow. It is disheartening to reduce such significant civil rights and humanitarian issues to an opportunity to get content and likes on Instagram. With corporations, it is not uncommon to find corporations making limited-edition merchandise or to change their social media handles in support of different causes. While it is obvious that these are essentially money-making businesses, it is definitely disheartening to see movement taglines written alongside other sponsorships, raising the question of “what are the intentions of these businesses?”

A study about the nature of slacktivism conducted by Kristofferson, Kirk, et al. studied the effect of the social observability of an initial act of token support on subsequent prosocial action. Researchers asked people to either join a Facebook group, accept a pin, or sign a petition for a charitable organization. They were then asked if they would like to donate or volunteer. It was inferred that the more public the initial depiction of support was, the less likely they were to offer their money or time. The ones who confidentially signed a petition were more likely to contribute than those who joined the Facebook group. This can be attributed to our tendency to be liked by others to be seen as inherently good. To our brains, others seeing us support a cause is essentially the same as actually supporting a cause. This plays into a rather interesting phenomenon called symbolic self-completion.

How can one turn slacktivism into activism?

When engaging in online activism, it is easy to pass on real opportunities to help, and settle for easier options. Performative activism is a complex issue that is harmful and dismissive of serious issues, but activism online has the potential to create change if done properly.

  • Online activism can be used to initiate important and difficult conversations surrounding social issues.
  • We can use social media to advertise or spread news of campaigns or charities which can increase civic engagement.
  • Instead of talking about how much you don’t like social evil, talk about why you care about the cause and why others should too.
  • Social and political issues are bigger than any of us and sharing your perspective and contributing to the conversation is a lot more beneficial than spewing or reproducing the same random information for the sake of seeming woke.
  • To avoid spreading misinformation on social media, ensure any infographic or content that you share has been reviewed and is from reliable sources 
  • To go further, one can join or start an organization that supports your cause. Really put yourself out there and volunteer your time and money selflessly to see long-lasting improvement.
  • The most important step one can take is to self-educate. Read books or articles, listen to podcasts, watch video essays, take classes about the cause, and listen to the people who are most affected, to get more informed about the issue you care about. Then, take action.
  • Consider your own personal beliefs and values and self-evaluate your stance on important issues to tackle any internalized bias we may hold. 
  • Even taking small steps and allowing ourselves to participate, learn and be held accountable is beneficial and these are the attitudes that we must bring into social situations.

To conclude, while online activism is a powerful tool, it becomes an issue when people post to appease their conscience and then relapse into a state of “I’ve done my part.” It is important to not stop here and continue to educate ourselves and be mindful of the little things in our everyday lives that go against our morals. All these things are capable of greater change than a single post or phase on your social media.


Written by Madhumitha K.

Edited by Tiffany Leveille

Graphics by Rachel

Sources:

https://blog.thegovlab.org/post/a-new-vocabulary-for-the-21st-century-slacktivism

https://nonprofithub.org/social-media/what-is-slacktivism-does-it-help/

https://zora.medium.com/why-your-instagram-story-is-not-enough-f41af495e99f

https://firstmonday.org/article/view/3336/2767

https://livewire.thewire.in/politics/performative-activism-online-black-squares/

https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/12614/10947

https://dailybruin.com/2020/06/10/second-take-performative-activism-fails-to-prompt-meaningful-long-term-systemic-change

https://callhub.io/slacktivism-to-activism/

Further reading about corporate activism: 

Further reading about symbolic self-completion:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/674137?seq=1

Study- “The Critical Periphery in the growth of Social Protests”

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143611