As social media has evolved over the years, it has become a huge part of everyone’s daily lives. It has become a platform that allows people to connect with one another and get updated on the latest news. Some have even made a living out of it. Despite its widespread influence and the integral part it has taken up in most people’s lives, social media has its positive and negative impacts.
BIPOC communities have been among those most impacted by social media; including South Asian communities. Through social media, South Asians have been able to break stereotypes and build careers they never thought were possible. Additionally, social media has slowly evolved into a platform for female self-expression. This, however, did not come about without criticism and backlash against South Asians on social media.
The beauty influencer Seerat Saini is a great example of a South Asian breaking into social media, but then also receiving heavy backlash. In many South Asian cultures, being fair-skinned is considered beautiful and pretty. As a dark-skinned South Asian woman, Seerat Saini came to social media to break stereotypes and prove that we are not defined by our skin color. Following a photo shoot for a magazine, Seerat faced a lot of backlash for her claims that she “decolonized these beauty standards”. Although South Asian social media influencers may not be able to fully eradicate beauty standards set forth by years of colonization, social media has at least given them a platform through which they can work to change this narrative even if by making just one person feel comfortable in their own skin.
With the rise of social media, people are becoming more vocal about issues around the world, resulting in more public awareness and in some countries pressuring governments to take much-needed action toward reforms. Racialized communities such as South Asian communities have become a voice for people worldwide. Examples of activists utilizing social media to bring social and systemic changes include policy changes in India as a result of gang rapes occurring in Delhi in 2012; and the elimination of taxes on sanitary pads in India through the Mumbai-based NGO campaign called #LahuKaLagaan. Unfortunately, social media also has its dark side. In spite of its tremendous potential to empower women, hashtag culture has also, at times, been reported to threaten women. As a result of anonymous accounts, the use of derogatory terms has become common, and sexual assault and death threats have become widespread. It goes without saying that South Asians, many of whom use social media to express themselves and launch start their careers are at the receiving end of a lot of hatred due to their skin color, gender, and religious beliefs. The hate and the consequences it has for mental health and well-being become the basis of disconnecting and the reason why so many influencers leave their jobs.
Is it paramount for us to be cognizant of how we use social media and stand together against online hate. In a rapidly growing virtual world with plenty of avenues to spread misinformation and disinformation, we need to focus on facts, respect, and spreading awareness.
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