‘Consent’, a term widely used in the sexual context, is an even wider and broad subject, which exists in variations of dimensions in society. Consent pertains to the permission of involving an individual in a variety of tasks. A lack of consent is considered a legal offence in certain specific subjects, whereas, it goes entirely unnoticed, or even normalised, stating the worst-case scenarios. One such field, where the lack of consent, is being widely observed is Social Media.
Social media platforms cater to a variety of content, ranging from reaction channels, to lifestyle vlogs and many more. While an impressive amount of people on these platforms tend to be sensitive to the idea of consent, it doesn’t take away the fact that there is an abundance of creators, who are completely oblivious to sensitive topics, including consent. These influencers, as we call them, are more than happy to tear apart anyone’s privacy without batting an eye on the emotional harm that is being caused to the person. There is a wide variety of such content creators, some of which will be discussed further.
This category includes the creators, who mainly curate lifestyle-based content, which includes their private moments with their family as well. While these types of vlogs might be quite entertaining to the viewers, it has the power of causing severe harm to the children of these vloggers. There are many content creators who feature their pre-teen children or toddlers in these vlogs; children who might or might not want to be associated with the social media world, once they grow up. The free choice of being or not being involved in this part of the social system gets taken away from these individuals, since their childhood. Even if they pull away from these platforms once they mature, the trauma caused to them never wears off. As a consequence of being subjected to online bullying in the comment sections during their childhood period, these individuals tend to develop self-esteem issues in the later part of life. The idea of their privacy being taken away from the beginning; of not having any security, could haunt them forever. According to a case study performed by Carolina Carrelo, by appearing in nearly half of the video titles as well as in the videos themselves, one might infer that kids are the primary players in family vlogging. The parents use sensationalistic strategies in an effort to boost the channel’s appeal. This tactic appears to be effective as, when combined, five videos under analysis received an astounding 408 million views. This significant exposure not only violates the privacy of the youngsters but also leaves them defenseless. As per few child psychologists, the exposure to fame and consent pressure of performance since infancy or early toddler years, could lead to depression and PTSD in future.
Ever since numerous social media platforms introduced the feature of short videos, there is an overflowing amount of short street interviews, where random questions are being asked to a bunch of individuals, imploring their opinions, ranging from personal to non-personal ones. While most of these videos are consensual, one cannot deny the existence of non-consensual ones. For instance, there are a large number of videos where an individual, shy of such interviews or non-cooperative, is made fun of, through quirky editing styles and background scores. The control of being or not being there, in the eye of the masses is taken away from these individuals, who might be uncomfortable in social situations. This could augment the levels of social anxiety among such people.
Perhaps the worst-case scenario, mentioned above, pertains to this area of the social media world. These are unsolicited, uncalled-for videos, where the content creators try to pull pranks on, mainly, the common public. This format is not only a drastic invasion of one’s private space but might also result in physical or mental damage to the target. Being extremely damaging, in multidimensional ways, such videos continue to exist and thrive on social media platforms. They often attract online bullies over the victim rather than the offender, creating an unsafe environment for the former individuals’ mental health. In one such case, 11 year old Tysen Benz, hailing from Michigan, killed himself as a trauma response after hearing about the death of his girlfriend through social media. The death later turned out to be a prank pulled by her and her group of friends. In another instance, YouTuber Timothy Wilks, got killed in self defense by a man he was pulling a robbery prank on.
In conclusion, due to the abundant nature of such videos, it’s nearly impossible to escape from the constant invasion of privacy. But, the problem could be dealt with, in a better way through improved monitoring methods. The higher-up authorities need to enforce substantial laws or codes of conduct, for the matter of private space, and the implementation should be looked upon keenly. Furthermore, the corporations running these social media platforms need to be rigidly held accountable for the type of content going up on their sites. The formats mentioned above, might be quite entertaining and fun, but should never reach a point of causing any sort of harm to any individual involved.
Ashna Arif is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Maryam Hassan