By Manleen Bawa
Going out? Take a selfie. Staying in? Take a selfie. Having fun? Take a selfie. Getting bored? Take a selfie. Almost everything we do has the potential to become a selfie-worthy moment. This narcissistic trend has managed to invade and settle itself in even the mundane tasks people carry out each day. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when the Indian government decides to bank on this nonsensical enterprise to further its own agenda.
‘Selfie with Helmet’ campaign
The District Administration of Jamshedpur launched a social media campaign called ‘Selfie with Helmet’ in December of 2016 at Salboni village on NH-33, around 34km from the steel city. With the goal of raising awareness about road safety and the need to wear helmets at all times to prevent unnecessary fatalities, it instantly became a hit with the masses. Citizens uploading selfies wearing helmets while riding two-wheelers were applauded and also rewarded with bouquets; those not donning the safety wear were given free of cost helmets. The Keonjhar Police Department soon followed suit in July 2017 by using the Bahubali star, Prabhas, as a role model to attract public attention and encourage a positive response to the initiative.
Honk. Beep. Click. Go.
The idea was to use popular culture to tackle pertinent threats endangering the lives of people on road. Given the scope of influence social media has on today’s youth, using it as a tool for promoting road safety seemed like a viable option. Since previous attempts to tighten the grip on road safety law enforcement such as ‘No helmet, no petrol’ drive in Lucknow, regular checks and issuance of fines, information dissemination by way of distributing pamphlets, organising workshops in schools, and others had failed to achieve the desired results, this Gen Y fad presented itself as a possible terrain of action. When conventional methods proved futile, keeping pace with the youth by way of social media was presumed worthwhile.
The campaign has, however, not been able to escape from the sheer absurdity of its effort. With people clicking selfies in the middle of crowded streets thereby stalling traffic and also quite possibly working absolutely antithetical to the purpose of the campaign, the irony makes itself palpable. The idea is to generate awareness and encourage obedience to the law for the security of the citizens—not make a mockery of the concept itself. But when individuals put their lives at potential risk in order to ostensibly contribute to the ‘greater good’ with the underlying attempt at making a daredevil social media statement out of it, the hypocrisy becomes evident.
While the government surely does not promote such activity, the initiative definitely provides room for such reckless and irresponsible behaviour. Although the campaign does not demand the need to capture the moment specifically on the road that has not stop people from clicking on the road to make it look more authentic. In such circumstances, it is hard to accurately place the blame on either party. Social media campaigns can go haywire in a matter of seconds because their originators simply have no control over what the other person is doing. The intent might be noble but the execution can translate into a disaster.
More than anything, such trends speak volumes about the generation intently following these fads. The culture of selfies which has come about indicates how self-engrossed many are. The very reason the administration felt the need to extract constructive good out of a characteristically frivolous and conceited pursuit highlights the superfluous value placed on a popular culture trend as wasteful as clicking pictures of oneself doing essentially nothing.
The power of social media over an individual inhabiting today’s world is immense. Social media campaigns allow a person to attain the idea of contributing to a cause by way of posts and likes while effectively making no difference in the world outside screens. While there is no denial of the revolutionary capacity of media to mould perceptions, there exists a certain sense of empty idleness as well.
So the next time you find yourself caught in a traffic snarl, you know it might be because someone wanted a good picture to post and boast about!
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons