Every one of us must have heard the phrase ‘sharing is caring’ in our junior classrooms. It was usually referred to teach kids the importance of ‘sharing’ – whether it is food, things etc. with their fellow students. As a kid is taught not to be selfish or self-centered, sharing as a concept is used to teach the value of community service. It is a lesson about how one must think and care beyond one’s own needs. Throughout our formative years, sharing takes on various meanings like in teenage it is more important for an individual to share thoughts and feelings and thus, one looks for a suitable friend. As we grow older, sharing grows as a concept. Since, now we have reached a time and age where real life is augmented with reel life with the help of social media; it is imperative to explore how sharing works in that sphere.
Social media displays a life that is continually documented and altered by us. It is the formation or deconstruction of an image we have chosen to display for the world. Somehow, it is also about the choice we make every day to share our point of view with others. Almost, all social networking tools such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. contain a daily feature in the form of ‘status’ which enables the user to interact with multiple people at the same time without really having a conversation. Status is, thus, a display of everything recent and vogue in the life of a user. This feature can be used to share numerous things – ideas, requests, images, videos, thoughts, opinions etc. So, let us focus on the meaning of ‘share’ in this respect. Since there are millions of people using social networks on a regular basis; they certainly have a lot to share with the world. Sharing not just what is personal but mostly what is beyond personal. There is a whole range of viral pictures or videos, sometimes news that does rounds on such platforms; and the reason they go viral is because most people felt the need to share it with the world.
Apart from sharing one’s personal information, there is a whole range of online posts from news, opinions, debunking of stereotypes to moral preaching and more. Whenever someone posts something that has some social bearing and moves beyond self-interest, that denotes something. It denotes the element of care and concern one attaches with every post. In a tsunami of issues and information, what will make you select matters of importance? Simple. We share what we care about. However, it is not the same as ‘sharing is caring’ because this former idea explained how ‘share’ derives its value from the word ‘care’. So, previously ‘care’ was a superior quality and to attain it, ‘sharing’ was seen of instrumental value. Sharing was important as it showed that you care about something. But the sense of ‘share’ in the newly constructed social media world has surpassed the worth of ‘care’. When we say, ‘caring is sharing’, that means something very different. It means that ‘care’ has shrunken in value; it is limited now as it only subjects to sharing. Most importantly, it suggests that ‘to show that you care’, you must share.
And so, we have ideas, issues, agendas fixed in social network algorithms which prey on guilt and conscience of network users, forcing them on a subliminal level, to respond and show their concern. Whenever a social media post does rounds, which displays the horrors of human condition through gruesome acts of violence, one is ‘expected’ to be ‘moved’ by it. This then results in an obvious reaction of concern and agitation. Followed by an act of ‘sharing’ it, to get rid of the guilt of not doing anything about it. Hence, care is shown surrounding a problem through sharing it online. It can be debated whether a person genuinely cared about the issue. Still sharing constitutes an essential part of the process. As discussed earlier, social media is the formation of a social image of the user, which can be empirical but is mostly, aspirational. With transforming fashion trends, social media also constitutes in vogue political, cultural, and moral ideologies. Today, ‘being cool’ is not limited to one’s dressing sense, it also envelopes a bunch of modern, liberal, revolutionary beliefs.
Therefore, in the context of social media, ‘caring’ for something corresponds to ‘sharing’ of online posts. The noble idea behind some political or cultural posts, which is fixated on the ‘awareness’ of the problem, doesn’t do any marvels. This is because the level of information present on social platforms is enormous and corresponding views to problem are also varied. There are opinions, trends and supporting arguments and claims to each of them. It is a matter of pick and choose, and one cannot understand the depth of a problem unless one has studied it and known it from outside these virtual social networks. An amazing example of social networking is Twitter which has been politicized and culturalized in every country. In Twitter, every tom, dick and harry holds an opinion; and every leader or celebrity ought to hold an opinion at times of significance. Our political leaders realize the importance of posting online. Every tweet that acknowledges issues of national importance, for instance, display their care and concern for the country. Similarly, every critic and dissenting tweet by netizens display their concerns for the country. What is problematic is not the dissenting voices or democratically heterogenous opinions; it is the frivolity of strong values like ‘care’ reflected by a mere social media post.
The sense of sharing has indeed transformed for us throughout these years, but ‘caring’ still makes the most of our emotional human selves. Care is the embodiment of motherly affection and everything else that nourishes us. What makes us more fulfilled human beings, is the amount of care and affection we receive at our young age. However, while using the word ‘share’ in its most reduced force, we cannot join its meaning to care. To care is to do something about it, not just show through a post. Difference in the world is not made by just posting online. Out of that virtual world, there are people who need our attention and care. Care as a value needs to be inculcated in every one of us, it is how we form human relationships and make them last. If we share an authentic bond with someone, it will not matter whether we have posted a whole series for them online. Our best friends are not so because we have maximum Instagram stories with them; caring for friendships has more depth than that.
All in all, the meaningfulness of ‘sharing is caring’ was acquired from its role in human bonding. To share was to extend a hand for help or to open oneself to others; however, if now it gets limited to some ‘trend-following’ or ‘image making’; it loses its essence. Still, as the world is not all black and white, we do have some advantages of showing care through sharing online. The biggest hit was people helping each other through COVID related SOS posts during the pandemic. That kind of information posts helped save many lives and this is what makes it noble. Hence, we arrive at an understanding that technology must be used wisely. We must not fall for the ills of social media but rather learn to use it effectively. The ways of expressing emotions today have undergone many changes and it will keep on transforming with time. Yet, there are some basics we must not forget. No matter what, humans need each other’s support more than anything and this will not go out of trend. In fact, without each other’s acknowledgement and recognition; we will have no identities. And so, the aim is not to catch one’s attention but to form life-long relationships that have as much care as retention.
– Tanya Yadav (Freelancer)
Picture Credits: penntoday.upenn.edu