The New Era of False Sensitisation
You Think You Know But You Don’t
was a student presenter at the 2009 Caribbean Culture and Media
International Conference, held at the University of the West Indies,
Mona, in collaboration with Clark Atlanta University. I spoke, along
with another student from UWI, and two from Clark Atlanta, about the
‘Convergence of Politics, Media and Culture’. I remember, during the
course of our presentations, that Dr. Alice Stephens - a woman I grew to
have great respect for over the duration of the conference - asked us
if we, as the younger generation, felt sensitised to what was taking
place in other countries around the world because of networking sites
(or applications) like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Blogger.
UWI student said, “Yes.” He then proceeded to explain how he was able
to receive and share information about the atrocities taking place in
other countries via Twitter and Facebook, and how he could “click on
links” to help save lives and send money to impoverished nations. Or
something like that. He ended by saying that, yes, we were definitely
more sensitised to what was taking place.
disagreed. Not only are we not sensitised about what goes on in these
other countries (forgive the double negative), we’ve fallen into a
delirium of believing that we are, and that what we are doing online is
somehow saving and changing lives. We believe that by putting a poster
in the sidebar of our blog drawing attention to a crucial human
development issue is somehow enough proof of our unflailing commitment
to humanity and of how aware and ‘sensitised’ we are to global issues.
But what I have found is that most times, it’s not. It’s not nearly
enough. And too often, it’s a no-brainer decision that leaves us with no
REAL sense of the reality others have to live with.
think it’s a certain level of arrogance that makes us believe that
we’re bestowing goodwill on the ‘lesser’, underdeveloped and
undemocratic states because of our ‘superior’ access to these social
media. And the worst part is, so many of today’s youth think they’re
doing these countries a favour by tweeting and posting about their
misfortunes, all the while maintaining this attitude of benevolent
arrogance that belies hypocrisy and a certain contempt for the very
states and people we claim to be helping.
must remember the attitude of the coloniser to the colonised. The
history and heritage of a people was disregarded as coloniser tried,
through hegemonic cultural genocide, to ‘civilise’ another state and
impose a ‘superior’ culture on them. We must be careful not to repeat
history using 21st-century tools.
fault of the colonisers is also our fault: we approach this ‘need for
help’ with overzealous myopia. There is a chasm where there ought to be
critical and serious thought. Like no other social network I know,
Twitter has popularised the concept of following - sans frontieres,
often sans mente. And the youth are often blindly following in their
forefathers’ footsteps. They just mindlessly take whatever information
is shoved their way from mainstream media and reproduce it without a
thought - it sounds like a good cause - it’s a BRAINLESS decision.
that brainlessness does not ever have a place in any serious
sensitisation programme. People who are sensitised to an issue must, at
least, THINK about it, must they not?
Twitter often helps to create is a bubble of deception - a
self-reinforcing one, no less! I can readily use the group of popular
Jamaican tweeters whom I have often criticised for this self-involved,
myopic syndrome on many previous occasions. The Internet is still a
relatively new concept to some parts of the island. There are many
people who don’t know how to manipulate a computer, much less log on to
the Internet and harness its awesome networking power. But this group
does not feature prominently on Twitter. They’re not there at all. And
their absence is not felt.
can so easily be led to believe that everybody else is hooked up and
YouTubing/tweeting because this is a prevalent feature in our circle (or
BUBBLE) of influence. This is what has happened to the Twitter-happy
bubble bunch. They are compulsive, obsessive tweeters who think that
anybody who’s not tweeting must be living under a rock. But no, there
are many people who are not familiar with these technologies right here
ON the rock. What we have is a concentration of a few urbanly located
youth who forget (or, often, don’t care) that the rest of their country
is sans technologia.
They consider themselves to classy, Western, modern … tweeting about
the ‘issues’, up-to-date with the REAL world, but totally oblivious to
what is taking place right here in their own country under their very
noses! They think they know, but they really don’t! And those pretenders
are ANYTHING but sensitised. What they are is self-involved, proud,
arrogant, shallow, brash and dismissive of anything or anyone that does
not conform to their twitterised way of life.
that’s what false sensitisation does. It gets you comfortably passive, makes you make a lot of useless noise because you think you know,
because you’re deceived into believing you ARE the essence of online
sensitisation. Social media has its place. But it must be used
hand-in-hand with other, more tested and proven methods of information. A
tweet cannot take the place of proper, solid research. A sidebar to
click cannot replace tangible, decisive action.
has its place in development. But education is still essential to
train, teach and truly sensitise people about how best to use the
technology, about its limitations, advantages, disadvantages.
Sensitisation goes beyond a click on an electronic device. It calls for
real interest, real thought, and more importantly, REAL ACTION.