I have been mulling on the subject of responsibility - the "R" word - in the digital age for a number of weeks now, before I resumed blogging in actual fact.
A couple of months ago, I found myself oddly hooked on the drama that was unfolding in the beauty vlogger/YouTuber world – I mean, I was refreshing websites to see the latest ‘tea being spilt’, avidly and obsessively watching ‘receipts’ kept to prove a racist or offensive remark having been tweeted in the past, raising an eyebrow or two at PR formulated ‘apology’ videos shot on kitchen floors in barely recognisable make-up-free faces …
Looking back, I don’t know what possessed me and I feel somewhat sick at myself having felt entertained by the breakdown of friendships and collaborations. Even though I am part of this social-media obsessed world – and have willingly gone back into it more forcefully by resuming blogging and taking up YouTube as well – I find myself at odds with how increasingly voyeuristic we are becoming … and more so, how one’s fall from grace has become a source for diversion. However, aside from that, as I think back on what brought about famous YouTubers’ backslides, I find myself pondering more and more on the responsibility bloggers, vloggers, influencers, companies and public figures in general have, especially now in this digital, more immediate world … The recent Dolce & Gabbana PR catastrophe (there is no other word for it, is there?) has made me think of this again and spurred me on to write this little thought piece.
Whenever one sets themselves up as a public figure – i.e. anyone posting content on a social media platform which is open to more than just your nucleus of friends and family – one has a certain responsibility on the content they are putting out. Of course, one can argue that anything which one posts would be protected by notions of freedom of expression and creative freedom … but should that outweigh the hurt that such content could potentially cause?
Take the D&G campaign I mentioned earlier: what was thought of as funny (perhaps) on one side of the globe caused offence on the other. I honestly would not have expected this from a global company such as D&G (I remember marketing lectures where we discussed how even products would be named differently when marketed to different countries/cultures so as not to cause offence …) Making things worse were the brutal comments from the allegedly ‘hacked’ accounts reacting to criticism. Of course, screenshots ‘receipts’ were taken and shared worldwide and the story gained worldwide traction. Eventually an apology video was broadcast to save some face but did it really?
I found myself following this story in the same way I was following the beauty YouTuber drama some weeks earlier … was this schadenfreude that I was feeling? I don’t want to think of it that way … I want to think of all of this as lessons learnt, especially in these early days of my blogging again.
The immediacy of social media is perhaps leading us to knee-jerk actions and reactions which may have consequences we would not consider at the moment we press the ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button. The moment you have an audience following your every move, every word you utter or tweet, you have a certain responsibility towards your followers – is what I’m about to share racially or gender insensitive? Does this joke or pun work wherever my followers come from or will I hurt someone? Am I imparting a positive life image? Will my post act as a negative trigger for someone trying to emerge from a bad phase? If anyone out there is looking up to me as a role model, am I sharing a life worth looking up to?
Of course there will be those who will contest that that would be self-censorship, that this world has become too politically correct and we’re all ‘snowflakes’ getting upset at everything and anything … but really, what value does negativity and insensitivity add to this world? Do we really need to be hurtful and offensive to go viral?
Zara blazer https://go.zara/2P6uDBA
Zara button-up knit https://go.zara/2P7juQI
Charles & Ron jeans (similar) https://go.zara/2P4oyFz
Gucci Ace sneakers https://on.gucci.com/2P79PJZ
Chloe Faye Day bag http://bit.ly/2P12uM9
Chanel earrings (similar) https://bit.ly/2qtnlOp
Chloe initial ring https://bit.ly/2ymvAAf