Why Does Indian Social Media Revolve Around the United States?

 

 

Edited by Janani Mahadevan

 

For some people, social media is a replacement for newspapers. I can attest to this. I wake up in the morning, lie in bed, and scroll through my Instagram feed in lieu of traditional news. One cannot deny that social media is apt for the fast-paced world we live in today. News you get on Instagram or Twitter is short and tells you what you need to know without beating around the bush. It’s either “[Insert issue] bad” or “[Insert issue] good”, depending on the kind of people and the pages you follow. Mostly. This helps you form quick opinions about something, without having to spend much time and effort. News on social media is also designed primarily with attracting your focus in mind. It updates within the span of a few seconds, a few taps of your fingers. It’s far easier than having to wait for a newspaper that arrives only the next day.

But what is this news? And, more importantly, where is it coming from? 

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Police brutality. Black Lives Matter. California wildfires. Over 200,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in the US. US Presidential Elections 2020. How many of us, as people who live in India, who use social media have seen the aforementioned words? Let me rephrase that: how many of us who use social media haven’t seen them? It was almost impossible to miss if we’d been active on social media the past few months. Which is interesting: It amazes me how widespread, nationally and internationally, news related to the US actually is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying any of the issues I’ve brought up. They’re all important. I bring them up only to exemplify their ubiquity. 

One can argue that this owes to the fact that the US is a global superpower with immense economic, technological, and military power. The US does not exist in a vacuum. The effects of what the US does ripple across the globe, and it becomes important, then, to know what decisions the US makes because they may affect what happens in our own country. However, here’s where the problem lies: some people like, comment, and share posts about the BLM movement- which is great; you’re an informed citizen of the world. They critically engage with some ignorant, privileged person in the comments section or even in real life to promote anti-racism. However, they forget about the issues in their own country. They don’t snarkily quote tweet the Islamophobic comments their leaders make on Twitter. They dismiss posts regarding the ways in which the government has failed its migrants, after a sad shrug of “Well, what can I do about it?”. They focus all their attention on what the US does wrong. They read articles, watch documentaries, and educate themselves on the US using social media as their stepping stone, but scroll right past posts critically examining the problems in their own country.

Then again, not all of us, right?

Let’s set aside the fact that most of us don’t acknowledge our inactions and dismissal of posts regarding the caste system or the glaring patriarchy. Even with that, it is still a saddening reality that a consumer of social media may be more educated on the history, politics, culture, and current events of the US than of their own country. Most people across the world knew about the California wildfires of 2020. But how many knew about the yearly floods in Kerala and Bihar? Is this because of how we, as consumers, tailor our feed in terms of the pages we choose to follow? Or is it because there exists an implicit norm of US-centric posts on social media? Where does the problem lie? Is it a problem at all? 

There are repercussions to having a US-centric feed on social media. An obvious one includes a limited awareness of the events happening in our own country. Another consequence, perhaps a little far-fetched one, is the Americanization of social media culture among people who do not belong to the US. For example, memes originating in the US become viral across the world and are co-opted, even modified. However, the latent watermark of “Made in the US” in them can never be erased. Memes originating from outside the US do not share the same fortunate fate. You could argue that this is because memes made within our own community can only be recognized and fully appreciated by someone within the same community. 

Then: Why do those of us who do not belong to the US understand the underlying intricacies of a three-year-old meme originating from the US? Why are we able to “fully appreciate” and relate to memes that come from a faraway country? What does it mean that we care so much more about an external culture and its happenings than our own? Memes aside, why is news from the US able to inspire mass outrage across international accounts on social media but our calls for unity against [insert issue] fall on a half-deaf world, even on our half-deaf country? 

Then again, not all of us are deaf, right?

Here, I write about the US-centric norm of social media, whether it exists or not. And here’s the irony: this was yet another article about the US.