There are many negative things that can be written about social media, from fake news to promoting specific hashtags as a political control mechanism, and delusive images that may have a negative impact on how people feel about themselves and their life…
I could carry on but the whole point of this blog post is to focus on a positive aspect, exacerbated recently by the tragic death of George Floyd.
It’s the ability to come together and raise conscientiousness towards positive change in the world, in this case, against racism and discrimination.
In any case, calls to action are being posted to encourage people to go beyond sharing the iconic black square. It’s worth celebrating how people are now using social media for their own purposes and not just the other way around.
Racism is an important element of discrimination - “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”.
When arriving in London for the first time 20 years ago, I remember thinking how wonderful it was to see all sorts of people living harmoniously in the same city.
But just like any other city, people are segregated into different neighbourhoods according to their socio-economic status, and there are many disparities beneath the surface.
When doing night shifts for BBC, I had a driver picking me up and driving me back home, inevitably an immigrant from a poor or conflict driven country, earning very little and working very long hours.
We would drive pass sophisticated offices in the City, where cleaners always looked like coming from either African countries or Latin America.
My experience in retail was at first glance all-inclusive, it was normal to work with people from all over of the world on the shop floor, but the moment I started contacting the head office, it became clear most staff tend to mirror the nationality of the brand.
It’s important to remain curious, observing others and speak out, but if we’re honest, it’s clear we all tend to gravitate within our own cocoon, and engage with people who are similar to us in one way or another.
We could all learn from young children playing in the park, they relate to one another without any labelling, engaging naturally with each other.
By the time we reach adulthood, freedom to be socially accepted while assuming fully whoever we are, seems to be entirely lost, when interacting with others, there’s always a label or a box narrowing us down and we have no choice but to hide behind different 'personas'.
Everything comes into play: where we are from, how we talk, how we look, how we dress, what media we read, if are we leaning towards the left or right, where we live, our surname, who our friends are, if we are we gay or straight, if we are a man, woman or transgender…
Discrimination is based on inequality and it would be great if those who have the power to do so, from politicians, to business leaders and recruiters, would strive to develop equality and respect for all.
I recommend reading The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Written by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, this book highlights the "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption”.
Maybe promoting designers and artists just because they’re black is not a good solution, it's just reversing the same problem, the point is to give a chance to everyone and evaluate who to support based on the work itself, with impartiality and fairness.
Racism is definitely a complex and delicate subject matter, as many aspects of it were inherited from our ancestors, but each of us can certainly try to be open to everyone we encounter in our life, and avoid all labelling and judgemental attitudes.
Together, we can certainly make a difference. Let’s remember Obama’s brilliant slogan, “yes, we can!”.