We are a generation that dwells on virtual intellectualism. The term ‘woke’ is often associated with the slang of Indian English with what we refer to as this virtual intellectualism. Woke is an essentially American work originating in the 70s to signify individuals aware of and actively attending to evolving issues of social justice, especially race. In the 21st century vocabulary of Indian English slang, ‘woke’ has almost assumed derogatory proportions to signify an otherwise socially and culturally privileged populace of youth who are more showy than “do-y”. In other words, youth who are very performative in their sense of social justice. And the stage for this performance is social media through and through.
In fact, social media is the best place to create the illusion of being a respectable, respectful and ultra-decent human, while not being any of the above in reality. The age of social media helps us generate a very convenient online persona under the garb of which one can betray those very dimensions they project. It’s easy to exploit people and their trust in reality through a make-belief facade on virtual reality. And one of the biggest impacts that the illusion of social media creates pertains to the safety and security of women.
With the advent of places like Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat, one shall find open and explicitly derogatory or misogynistic content. The recent example of the Boys’ Locker Room group that created nationwide news is simply one of the several thousand examples where men openly channelize rape talks or objectify women filthily. However, at the same time, there is also a significant percentage of the population that employs displays of intellectualism to win women’s trust to, later on, exploit the same. Several women have experienced men who showed themselves as the most woke, feminist, iconoclastic persona online perpetrating indecent and inappropriate behaviour offline. Several times the online persona is a trap for women looking for bare minimum decency in a romantic partner.
With the age of social media, three-minute reads serve the same purpose as 300-page books. Hence theories of social justice, values of democracy and polity are doled out freely in pamphlet posts. While it can’t be discounted that people are being made aware of social issues, a darker underside remains, the illusion of awareness. Social media creates a big rift in the audience willing to imbibe iconoclastic ideals, the audience openly discarding them, and the audience insidiously using them to set their own selfish ends. This shows the most when it comes to treating women as equals, more radically as humans.
The digital era has magnified the scale at which women are objectified daily, be it on advertisement billboards, on television screens at movie theatres, in music videos or simply on the abundant Facebook memes or WhatsApp forwards doing the rounds of our daily virtual lives. To the horror of the cause of women’s liberation, the digital era of Facebook and Instagram profits out of misogyny. Memes and trolls are the biggest agents of dwelling out often explicit often hidden attacks on women’s characters, clothing, morals, abilities and whatnot. Laws of our country are way backwards in terms of keeping sync with this fast-evolving( or rather degenerating) virtual world to give women the much-needed safety they ought to have online. Every woman who uses the internet has been at the receiving end of some or the other form of misogyny, abuse or insult in their life or been conned at the hands of seemingly decent and understanding men.
As social media becomes the sole gate to all our everyday transactions, be it business or romance, we are increasingly vulnerable to be cheated by the online personas of people. And women are even more vulnerable to fall prey to well guised cheats and perverts. For the internet is the safest place for sexual perverts and predators to operate and get away scot-free. Cyber safety laws are way too weak in our country and predators far too smart to circumvent the law.
In an era where the internet is the necessity, it is the need of the hour to make young girls and boys aware of its many dangers and the many twisted ways it can be used. Sexual predators in the guise of helpful strangers are far too many. In fact, it would be apt to say we are moving towards being a generation that has its theoretical and virtual ‘wokery’ compromise with its real-life empathy, decency and kindness. It gets very difficult to detect this change for everything is too smoothly veiled on the internet. Hence to determine what is real and what isn’t becomes a tough job for the inexperienced. And these situations are the perfect breeding grounds for the most crooked abuses and crimes, especially against women.