I’m sitting on the sofa with my morning cup of tea and a biscuit. I’ve woken up a bit earlier than usual, but still feel rested. The morning stretches out before me like a snuggly cashmere blanket. I lazily scroll through Instagram; there’s a photo of a beautiful woman with a bag that costs as much as a three-bedroom house in Sliema. I zoom in on it, trying to take in all the details. My finger slides downwards, the picture changes, and all of a sudden, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut.
The happy, healthy, toothy grin of affluence is gone and in its place is a woman on the opposite side of the world bent over a white bundle, whispering tenderly to it as if it were a child. It only takes a few milliseconds for me to realise that what I’m looking at is indeed a grieving mother whose baby was snatched away from her by war, and the tears that start to roll down my face banish any feelings of peace. Calm is replaced by anxiety; the seesaw effect of the abrupt change in my mood hits me like a brick. This isn’t a one-off, though; I will experience it every time I visit social media over the next few weeks. I don’t know what to do with any of it.
War and pain have always existed, but never like this. Now, it’s in your sitting room; it’s with you in bed when you’re messaging your mum good night. In 3D and HD, with surround sound, you can now have front-row seats to the world’s most significant events. And even more ghastly, your algorithm will somehow find it pertinent to sandwich a dead baby’s hand between a photo of Paris Hilton and a video of Britney Spears playing with knives. You almost feel like you’re hallucinating. You feel shame and guilt that you have a soft bed while others lie in the mud.
But what can be done? Bar keeping off social media, absolutely nothing. And that’s the most awful part of all. Like old Prometheus who had to endure a daily cycle of his liver being eaten and it growing back again, we seem to be doomed to either watching awful things happening and trying to help in whatever way we can by donating or sharing stories or just ignoring things altogether and living in a permanent state of ignorance. We all know which camp tends to be happier.
I suppose I’m writing this to help everyone who feels the same as I do feel a little less alone and to remind everyone reading that our ability to feel for each other remains one of the better parts of being human. May we eventually get to a place where others are able to put their humanity before their prejudice, hate, and greed.