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Self-censorship on the gram as an Arab.

creativebeingdina contributor

If you know, you know.

When the world was hit with the pandemic, everything changed for me. The hours I put in working tripled, the amount of people I saw lessened and online consumption quadrupled. The more I was connected, the more I felt sharing anything personal online was sacred to me and only a select few were privy to it. I found myself editing and auditing my content, making sure my life is private online. Born and raised in the Middle East, with a culturally conservative upbringing leads to a constant battle internally on how comfortable I feel sharing on social. It took me a while to even write this article thinking of how people may perceive it with my inner voice automatically screening my words. In season two of Hulu’s hit series “Ramy,” viewers get a glimpse into the belief that publicizing your good news puts you at risk of attracting the ‘evil eye’, worried about, or at least contemplated, possible repercussions when posting about their lives on social media. Many young Middle Easterners are caught between the norm of posting updates online and cultural traditions which advise hiding good news from others. There is a fine line between seeming like you’re showing off or showing something simply.

If we dig deeper into the roots of this, the topic of privacy is directly linked with modesty and respect in the Arab Gulf and social media is shaping norms of expression in the Arab world. What may seem like a normal post for most Americans is often scrutinized by the Arab community in a different light. How can she afford that lifestyle? What is she wearing? Who is this person she’s holding hands with? Is she drinking alcohol? What is she doing partying till 3am? Do her parents know? It becomes easier not to post unless it’s curated. Depending on the context of individual countries, some people embrace this emotional freedom online to share their lives and relationships, while others feel uncomfortable breaching cultural taboos, worried about, or at least contemplated, repercussions when posting about their lives on social media. In practice, this means there can be a lot of self-censorship online, making users wary about what they say online.

I am not one to share anything live, anything political or anything sexual. I express through my art and use my platform to share curated stories that can be seen by anyone and still feel like no-one knows me personally. Intention is key in what, how and when I post. For those who know me personally, I am selective in the information I share and that is seen carried across in social as well and I love that. It makes me feel safe and in control of the information that is out there about me and from me. If you are lucky enough for me to open upto you in person, means I feel very comfortable I won’t be judged in any way, but on social it’s a different story. With a world of people I know and don’t know online, my personal life will always be a mystery to others. If you know, you know.