Shutdown, lockdown: why media matters too much

It seems like a good time to discuss speech freedom. Though Pew Research is not as popular as any given trend on social media, they’ve detailed how we’ve experienced a period of cancellation, not in terms of lack of praise, but lack of argument on the right to mobility — and no, that is not related to your mobile phone, but instead, the right to “come and go”, or “freedom of movement”, as defined by the United Nations. But then if you want, let’s talk about mobile phones! Why not stick in a needle containing all necessary conflicts to solve with a deadline for the people who managed not to drop dead as a consequence of an arguably orchestrated policy management involving social crisis shifting gears to massive use of social media and conflicts ignored, misinterpreted and poorly debated? Few people talk about the social aspects of health care, including substance use and Social Determinants of Health, as reported by McKinsey; but this “orchestration”, if it wants to be interpreted as a historical timeline of power relations reaching some kind of tipping point, and not another conspiracy theory, needs proper references.

So let’s search for the references. Psychology Today mentions two papers, from PLOS ONE, a Californian “inclusive journal community working together to advance science for the benefit of society”, and Spotlight on Research, “an online collection of health-related, peer-reviewed, open-access journals”. This is a brief mention of scientific-method based analysis of behavior, while raising the argument that “removing access to social media produces anxiety“. Later in the article, the FOMO factor is mentioned, or “fear of missing out”. I would propose two steps forward, and one backwards: firstly, let’s consider that few people search for references, okay? Second, everyone remembers the scene on Netflix’s big hit “The Social Dilemma” where a phone jar gets cracked in order to fetch back the phone that mom and dad didn’t want you to use at the lunch table, but the device stays intact. In fact, even The Verge, in their review, has come to the conclusion that was not the most accurate description of the problem. And third, hasn’t the term “fear of missing out” been used to the exhaustive scale that dims any attempt of repurposing meaning and gaining leverage on where things stand? Is it so hard to understand, or write down and publish, that competition between small businesses and big businesses is unfair, and that includes traditional media, responsible for injecting that fear — not just of missing out, but for what might happen next time you go out in the street, all the while showing a semi-related story in case something does happen while you’re out and you don’t even have the energy to call them out?

The thing with mobility, it seems, is too complex to debate in kindergarden level. But to shift all pedagogical meterial for kindergarden students to not just digital inclusion, but proven proficiency on new communication standards, so early on, never seemed to be a problem. The shortage is of health care workers, not teachers. You see? Nobody’s ever read the American Common Core Standards, launched in 2009, when president Barack Obama declared, as seen in The New York Times: “It’s not that their kids are any smarter than ours — it’s that they are being smarter about how to educate their children.” The article also mentions that, in 2015, 20% of students in the state of New York opted out of their end-of year tests; it quotes the president of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (who funded scholars that have based my research, by the way) saying that it’s sort of a “game of catch up [to] learn about the importance of wider community engagement”. So… Okay, Obama: what community, what engagement, and who are the smart kids you’re talking about?

I personally think it’s much more realistic, although uncomfortable, to talk about the simple facts: accelerating social interactions made people realize there was, indeed, a wider world on the web. But coming back to those articles people don’t read: what happens when you take away someone’s phone is one thing; what happens when you take away someone’s identity and completely destroy it is another. Do parents have the power to do both? The answer is yes. And that is my personal fight. The bigger fight is realizing that notwithstanding the fact that the ex-president is not my daddy, I’ve developed a similar feeling: kids are smart, aren’t they? And we want to be positive. But the perception of “smart move” is different than that of a “smart guy”, and if you pass the mic to a girl of age 13, the response will change; if you pass the mic to a woman, with her own idea of smart networking and history of building things for herself through effort and dedication, who’s 31 now, she will have many stories to tell. Does that mean we’re witnessing critical age gap limitations, both in terms of public debate, attention and morale? I would say yes, we are; but I don’t have the definitive answers to these problems, because Obama really synthesized it: there’s kids; there’s also “the other kids”.

Political dimensions aside? We can’t say that. Lockdown made us be immersed with world consequences in real time, while sitting in bed. Some people’s reaction was to go on TikTok. Wanna talk about that? CNBC addressed the issue, but it says “data” is the problem, not teens dancing to the sound of a gun being loaded and hyper sexual lyrics (very common in Brazil). But what happens if Brazilian data, in case someone in this country studies it seriously, is taken into account? We know Brazil has “the fifth largest population of social media users worldwide”, as per Statista report. We also know there are some problems in Brazilian legislation response to initiatives to “take care of the internet”, like Net Neutrality, copyright law, payment services use, privacy and of course, data. The Brazilian version of European made GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) principles does not clarify, in practice, what was proposed by European lawmakers and applied in California (I won’t comment on Snapchat; the CEO’s name is Evan and that’s just weird), specifically in the first descriptions of the document. I’ll get there. When you look at the material scope, and then go further, reading Title V of the Treaty on European Union, which describes foreign policy in what we’d like to believe represents a solid ground to maintain perpetual world peace, Immanuel Kant’s dream, you might have some doubts. From the original document, Article 21, transcribed in full:

1. The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.

The Union shall seek to develop relations and build partnerships with third countries, and international, regional or global organisations which share the principles referred to in the first subparagraph. It shall promote multilateral solutions to common problems, in particular in the framework of the United Nations.

2. The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to:

(a) safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;

(b) consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;

(c) preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders;

(d) foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;

(e) encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade;

(f) help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development;

(g) assist populations, countries and regions confronting natural or man-made disasters; and

(h) promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance.

3. The Union shall respect the principles and pursue the objectives set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 in the development and implementation of the different areas of the Union’s external action covered by this Title and by Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and of the external aspects of its other policies.

The Union shall ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies. The Council and the Commission, assisted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall ensure that consistency and shall cooperate to that effect.

Freedom, respect, dignity, equality, solidarity: whether we’re addrressing an education crisis or a public health crisis, what have we learned from theory and practice? This set of principles is mentioned at the very beginning of the GDPR document, and also requires “catching up” with other historical policy developments; there’s much to discuss, but how many examples can you give from the “GDPR compliant” organizations that will, for example, promote “stronger multilateral cooperation”, knowing that the word “sustainable”, when it comes to economic and social development, actually means something entirely different? Sustainable, in my view, is meeting people online when I can’t stand the people who live where I am. Sustainable, for me, is buying yogurt instead of eating pork. Sustainable, for me, is being able to tell my story and be heard, instead of contested, humiliated and doubted; ridiculed and criticized on every stance, at every chance, while I’m the one reading the freaking law and saying: “wait a second”. Sustainable, for me, is transitioning from my bedroom to my kitchen or bathroom without thinking about the shame of my relatives in case they knew what just happened in my personal life, and it’s definitely not sustainable to give that kind of information to private companies who will make use of my history as they please under the guise of promoting inclusion and entertaining the masses. It’s probably not sustainable, and I have to say probably because I don’t know how else I would still think about having a professional life, to study for decades any given subject, like a foreign language, and miss the chance of having great conversations because of failure to activate your brain responses and fucking say hello, or find the words and not go around them, not making pauses, not mispronouncing them, and hoping people don’t treat you as a toddler because you can’t possibly understand everything and maybe anything, but in case you do, your face is stupid anyway, so get hit by a freaking bus. Since when renouncing dignity produces good entertainment? We are not entertained. We’re locked down, with no financial aid, with no proposal of damage reparation for the harms that social media and tech companies flirting with monopoly judges to successfully bribe them and then, as their next grand move, flirt with authoritarianism, in order to preserve their profits at all costs — minding that the cost is determined by them, and their actions; while that happens, we’re being called “worthless”, in all of what we do.

I recently read an Instagram post that said: “the artist is not an entrepreneur”. I’d like to conclude with two ideas on that. First: it’s not everyone who pursues a professional career as an artist, but most of what we spend our lives doing can be associated with artistic expression, which operates in a much different and much more free domain. We think it’s “poetic” that someone called us a nickname; we think poetry is journalism. We are not interested in journalism, unless it’s talking about us. But we want spotlights, at moderate (and sustainable) values. Art has a lot to do with vulnerability, and we accept that. But society wasn’t built because of art; art was built because of society, in order to expose it. Secondly: the profitability of a social model where people are forced to know everything about everything, and also to know anyone, but easily replace them and then choose to either talk a lot about them or say nothing at all, doesn’t seem to have been associated with the conversations that we never had with family members, because they think our lives are “unsustainable”. The media will talk about inflation, food, violence. We can just pretend that a rich person we met on Tinder is aware of what the media has said, because whatever happens, the trend we’re seeing is that possible experience becoming a viral soundtrack with lots of edits, to the point where nothing matters anymore — until someone sheds light on the issues that actually do. We just hope there’s an audience.

Image: Pexels

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