Gaby DeMartino, an American lifestyle vlogger recently shared a video of herself naked as a child on Only Fans – a subscription site that monetises content, and immediately began receiving severe backlash. The video was accused of sexual assault, pedophilia, and pornography. The video had to be taken down and Gaby’s account was suspended, the video also raised severe ethical and legal concerns.
We live in times where social media has become the most accessible and also the most powerful tool world over. It’s a tool for surveillance – law enforcement to immigration agencies using it. Social media is also an excellent tool for businesses; a lot of small businesses are thriving even in a pandemic only because of social media. Then there the new age celebrities, people who have earned a fan base solely based on the content they put out on their social media platforms. And as with everything else, there’s a downside – people are denied visas based on what they post, businesses have suffered huge losses over negative reviews, and people’s characters assassinated, and not always for the right reasons.
A few days ago, a particular post was all over Nepali social media. A few self-proclaimed feminist accounts shared it, and then a few Nepali celebrities picked it up. The thousands of followers of these accounts were quick to notify Nepal Police and probably because of the flood of tags, even the otherwise dormant Nepal Police responded. The post in question was videos taken from an account that belongs to an adult man. In these videos, the adult man was seen lip syncing to Nepali film songs alongside a little girl who barely looks old enough to consent. What is particularly questionable and uncomfortable to watch is that the adult man has his hands move carelessly over the little girl’s body. This is not the case of a single video, there are multiple similar posts on that account and most of them have similar content.
Now the tags and re-sharing created such a stir online that the account has since been disabled. There was also an explanation video offered by the little girl’s family. The man in question identifies himself as her thulo-baba and her parents alongside the minor stand in solidarity. They accuse the comments and opinions as unwarranted accusations of sexual misconduct and warn people against it. Now, the family’s defense itself is questionable and as for the aware, woke folks at Instagram and Tik-Tok kudos to bringing such an important yet hardly discussed issue to light.
I am sure a lot of people, young and old had a day of reckoning but what about the little girl in the video? How does she feel about the entire world judging and pitying her? What does it feel like to have your father and the entire family shamed by thousands? And what it must be like to be the poster child for something she never signed up for? And most importantly how is this incident going to affect her mental health, social life, and her future?
I am in no way suggesting that we don’t look out for each other or that the man in the video and his actions are innocent, but don’t we need to be a little more cautious when dealing with sensitive issues as such? Shouldn’t celebrities who have a huge number of people listening and following their ways exercise a little more restraint and at least protect the privacy of the child? Especially in a society like ours where victim shaming and blaming is the norm, what does it mean for an adolescent being put on trial for thousands to see? These are real people and regardless of your intentions, their lives can be forever altered because you chose them to push your agenda.
Within days, Gaby’s not only had her account suspended but also had to issue an apology for the same. In the three-minute video she says, she never in a million years perceived that it would have hurt and caused pain to other people. Now was Gaby really unaware of how the video would affect people? Who is to say? But the truth is even if it was herself in the video, by carelessly sharing it on social media she hurt people, it triggered traumas and Gaby might just face criminal charges.
As for the Nepali viral post, a few accounts have now blurred the minor’s face but that’s hardly useful. The damage is done because of how convenient downloads and screenshots are. Sharing on social media can often feel passionate and spontaneous, and done only for instant gratification. But the effect of that share goes beyond the obvious, and the spillover impact can be things we haven’t really comprehended. And as social media gets increasingly ingrained in our lives, I hope we can take time to stop and think before sharing anything on the internet.