It is no news that our social media timelines are flooding with friends, family, strangers spreading the messages of covid resources, sourcing Remdesivir, vials and ICU beds for patients they haven’t probably met or even heard of.
Social media has become a platform for crisis handling, not only for governments, but also for ordinary citizens like you and me. The mishandling of the pandemic by the central government of the country has led citizens to come together and join forces to fight the virus. A sense of collective consciousness is being seen in ways people are donating to fight covid, helping strangers in whatever way possible and urging others to do so.
Never before has the country seen such solidarity among its citizens on social media. People who would generally flaunt their lifestyle, academic accomplishments, personal accomplishments have taken a conscious step to not do so during the second wave of covid.
My LinkedIn timeline is filled with people looking for job and others commenting on it with leads. Instagram story line is filled with people asking for leads for a friend’s brother for ICU beds in Delhi, for vials for a stranger in Hyderabad, for food delivery services in Indore etc. Entrepreneurs on Twitter have collated pan India covid resources consisting of hospital beds, contact information of local authorities, food delivery services, Remdesivir leads etc. Employers on LinkedIn are helping affected employees and their families and have announced 4-day work week to cope with the mental and physical effects of the pandemic.
Social media which was the platform to announce, flaunt and rub one’s accomplishments and privileges, has turned into a community for help, for assistance and for empathy. People are consciously not posting about their good days on social media because of the fact that many are not lucky enough to even survive this year.
Is our social media, then, turning into a collective community? Does this mean that whenever the state fails us, we users, will turn to each other for help? Could this alter the way urban users share things online? Does this mean that social media users are re-instigating collectivism?
Even after the pandemic subsides, users are going to be conscious about what they post. The collective consciousness will still prevail. Does this mean that our society is turning a bit selfless? Should brands then offer products and services which promote group loyalty and collectivism? Should brands focus on ‘we’ more rather than ‘I’?
From billionaires adding numbers to their income to the privileged roaming and socializing without the worry of contacting the virus, the debate of Haves vs Have Nots has only risen amidst the announcement of second lockdown in various cities and towns.
While the debate always existed, it has now taken the turn towards the matter of life and death. The Haves have always had more of everything, but never has the discussion of the Haves having more access to life been in the limelight. If anything, until a few years ago, the Have-Nots aspired to be like the ‘Haves’. However, their discomfort with the system started becoming palpable. With the Modi Government coming into power, the Have-Nots started questioning the status-quo. This was further dialed up with the popularity Kangana Ranaut garnered by standing up to the industry-biggies.
However, the second wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic in India has started to verbalize and call out the ‘Haves’ for showing their privilege when others are distressed.
The screenshots represent the Have Nots facing acute shortage of medical and financial help when the privileged class sits in the comfort of its wealth.
The conversations and memes posted on social media are a clear shift in the chatter turning to the Have Nots raising the questions of equality, social justice and the widening economic gap. The under privileged are seriously questioning the social significance attached to the privileged class and to the respect attached to wealth, money, upward class mobility and the power that comes with it. The Haves are realizing that opulence of wealth and vanity is not the real power anymore, and that power, is up for grabs.
Does this mean that the culture of opulence, abundance and wealth creation might take a shift towards genuine societal care and charity? We think that the ‘Haves’ will now have to find a different way to enjoy their wealth in private and not flaunt their privilege. They would also have to find a different way to fulfill their status and self-esteem needs. Would this give rise to more exclusive apps like Clubhouse? Can brands create products for discreet consumption? Will the symbols of status – wealth, branded apparels and accessories, travel become more altruistic and represent charity, helping others and staying humble? Will brands start betting on conspicuous consumption and create offerings which symbolize more by having less?