Another social media viral video and another young life snuffed out. This, unfortunately, is the tale of 19-year-old college student Hamidullah from the Kabal Tehsil of Swat, who became only the latest of young, talented and promising superstars losing life whilst chasing the elusive dream of fame. Hamidullah was shooting a video for the popular video-sharing social network TikTok when a gun that he was using as a prop accidentally discharged a bullet that was lodged in it unbeknownst to the youngster. It did not make matters better when some of his friends, who were helping him shoot the video, narrated that the theme of the fatal content was suicide. The phenomenon of people losing their lives in their bid to take ‘daring’ shots or videos while doing outrageous and highly unsafe acts is nothing new and, in fact, predates TikTok’s creation. They are thus the symptoms of a disease.
The race for garnering an ever-increasing number of likes and becoming social media sensation stems from a larger need to be recognised, to be seen, heard and understood. Many extremely talented artists in Pakistan are understood to have never been provided an opportunity to express their talent just because those in position of authority thought they were not good enough or what they wanted to do was just a waste of time. So many such youngsters turned to the only outlet they know, social media. And some, like Hamidullah, found some validation for it by connecting with like-minded people online. There are others like a simpleton from a Pakistani village who hit national stardom just by cooking with the simple and traditional utensils that he had available.
The true tragedy of the digital revolution is how an unforgiving culture of wanting to be seen and heard is voraciously consuming lives all because we do not give such people the courtesy they deserve in the real world. That is something that banning platforms will never solve.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2021.