Instagram is a fabulous medium, isn’t it? I love the snapshot into someone’s life at a precise moment. What the photo conveys, how the author positions their post – contrary to the non-Instagrammers out there, it really does have a point…
The cursory glance at a few images from on Instagram: places far away; objects easily recognised; or faces long forgotten is a powerful tool for marketers, but for me it is a privilege. I am usually an extremely private person – it comes with the territory when you have a past embedded with painful times. It’s self-preservation and future proofing. I don’t want to share things that serve nothing for me in the future. Plus, I don’t want to continue to feel like a victim. Therefore, I feel the privilege that comes with enjoying a snapshot into other’s lives and an accompanying note telling me what they are thinking. I also acknowledge the privilege that is to have the means and freedom to own a device, have unlimited internet access, and create stories for enjoyment. Many people in the world I live do not enjoy such things.
Last weekend I attended a fundraiser luncheon and film to raise funds to support Afghan asylum seekers and the refugee community. As is my privilege, I wielded my phone, snapping photos of the classical architecture of the community hall and cinema that hosted the event. The art deco furnishings, the velvet drapes and exquisite wooden floors. The well-trodden stage. Oh, my heart – I loved the warmth radiating from this building on a cold winter’s day.
Next came the panel of guest speakers. Remarkable people doing remarkable things in the name of social justice. I was moved to tears as a woman from Afghanistan told her story, and equally enraged when I considered my government’s disposition for humanity. Then came the film: When Pomegranates Howl. Although released a few years ago, I had not seen, nor heard of it. It follows the harsh reality of life for a boy living in Kabul, who’s father had recently been martyred. I stared at this subtitled word. Repeated it several times in my head, thinking what an unusual verb it was. This in itself is privilege – the disassociation with everyday events, happening in another part of the world.
Our news broadcasters in Australia are only interested in the ‘big news’ of the day in Australia. Maybe the headline story is something to do with Canberra and the continual betrayal of democratic values by certain personalities from our major political parties; or alternatively it could be a disgraced big four accounting firm trading government secrets with their wealthy clients for fees. Don’t get me wrong – these are issues and they are concerning. But more often than not, the news then cuts to some story about a fallen football club hero. Really? I still watch ABC, but their continued disregard for real world crisis events, at the expense of broadcasting ‘fallen archetype’ stories of Australian sports heroes is causing me to want to throw something at the TV. Come on ABC – you can do better than this! I’m learning to tune in half an hour earlier to SBS as this broadcaster provides a much better overview of concerning events in the world I live in. Misinformation and disinformation are rife on the mainstream television networks. Then there is Sky News, which is so far right, I wonder if their die-hard viewership dress in cotton ankle-length dresses, button-up blouses and three-piece woolen suits. But what about missed-information? Because, this is what I think the Australian Broadcasting Commission is guilty of. Missing the target.
Anyway, I digress from my point. The Afghanistan community living in Australia are extremely respectful of their adopted country. As individuals they have stories and scars that will never heal. Another young woman living in country Victoria stepped up to the microphone and told of her plight to flee the country after Taliban occupation in 2021. She had grown up in an orphanage, then chosen to join the army. When the Taliban came, she had nowhere to go and no-one to shield her from their tyranny. As a woman she would be targeted – she had to get out. Her story is not unique, but we don’t hear this enough on the news. We do not feel the pain that exists in the world. Only an overview of ‘the situation in Afghanistan’. I acknowledge other programs such as Four Corners that delve deeper, but there certainly isn’t enough first-person accounts on our screens. Coupled with the way we fall back into doom-scrolling on our phones to fulfill some desire to be entertained, we are perpetually ignorant to truly understanding what life is like for people in these situations.
The film left me heartbroken. It was based on true events which involved the Australian Defence Force opening fire on residential Kabul, and accidentally killing two young boys. In the aftermath there was an apology from the Australian government, and an offer of compensation (I believe just a few hundred dollars).
The boy had been forced to work on the streets of Kabul to support his mother, sister and grandmother after his father had been killed. He too was now known as martyred. It’s sad to think I took pictures of the cinema chairs and the speakers at the event thinking I would post to Instagram about my ‘outing’. How can I ask the ABC to submit journalism to a higher standard, if I am going to flaunt my privilege by posting about these people’s lives? Their desperation to live in a country where they are safe.
So, I might love Instagram, but I also consider it as a basis for sharing stories. Sometimes, those stories are just me on a bushwalk in nature. Other times, it might be me, pausing and reflecting about the intolerable world my fellow humans endure, all the while I sleep in my warm bed in my safe house. Oh, and the Hazara woman that spoke was raising money to continue her work to educate girls, at great risk to herself and her teachers, in Afghanistan. If there is one thing I hold close to my heart, it is that everyone deserves an education. Irrespective of race and gender and ethnicity.
Next time you see a story about a bombing of a village or town over the other side of the world, ask yourself: who are the people that woke up that morning asking little more than to make it through the day?
Enjoy Instagram, but also, consider the privilege we have in using it to tell our everyday stories.