Before leaving Sweden I made a post on Instagram preparing my audience for an unstoppable flow of content, or in other words, spam, of my life in India. It has now been 29 days since I arrived, and I have only made one upload which consisted of a photo of a street in Pune, explaining that I couldn’t yet regurgitate what I have seen, felt and thought here. Three weeks later and still nothing has changed. I’ve analyzed this unfamiliar speechlessness, and come to conclude that it’s a fear of misrepresentation. These weeks have been filled with countless impressions that are completely new to me, and the collection of these make up my experience and thoughts about India, so how could a 4 sentence description and a photo possibly be a fair representation? I have struggled with this on social media before, though it has never hit me in the face so hard as during my time in Pune. These are my current fears which manage to strangle my ability to share:
I have a fear of being too stereotypical; showing a picture of a cow on a traffic-jammed street or an old woman dressed in a colourful sari in front of a temple. So picturesque. Then we have the other side of the stereotype coin of India, the negative side, regarding poverty or sexism which has already been included in my few weeks here. A begging child, the gender divided buses. These posts reinforce the image of India which media unfortunately often depicts to my part of the world, Scandinavia. It simplifies and narrows the narration, creating a cherry-picked image of life in India.
I also have a fear of being too sugar-coated, the usual trap of social media. Showing only the highlights of my week; my cup of chai in the early morning before school or making a local friend at a hip book café. This would be giving a false impression of how easy or pleasant my personal life in India is, which isn’t always the case or maybe even most of the time. The impact of this being that not only am I again simplifying the image of India, but I’m also reinforcing this problematic aim for perfection which we experience when only seeing the positive aspects of others' lives.
Now a disclaimer: I do NOT believe I am what we call in Sweden “an influencer”, a social media personality or celebrity. It is not as if I am reaching out to an audience of thousands, strongly impacting their understanding of this diverse country. Still, I am reaching out to people who most likely have never been to India therefore still affecting a handful's perspective. It’s is enough for me to worry. Not only is it about impact, but also principle. No matter who I reach out to, the person I am on social media should be an honest and just one.
But after all this pondering I’m wondering if these platforms can ever give justice to the truth. Is accurate representation even possible? If not, should I give up entirely? I don’t know. Just like my last blog post, I end with more questions than I started with. My philosophy teacher would be proud of me.
If any of you reading this have a solution or a way to avoid these mistakes on social media, please comment! I still want to share, I just don’t know how.
Ironically, I think I will share this post on social media now.