On social media, people face pressure to speak out about the Israel-Hamas war

On social media, people face pressure to speak out about the Israel-Hamas war

Best-selling cookbook author and creator of Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman, focuses her social media posts on her work, like pasta or chocolate chip cookie recipes. But days after Hamas attacked Israel, he described the violence on Instagram as “disgusting” and expressed fear of “death and destruction on both sides now.”

Next, she posted about apple picking with her newborn niece and her kids. Her direct messages were immediately filled with angry comments.

“How can you post a few paragraphs and go on about apple pie? You are Jewish,” one user wrote. Another questioned why he “never once had pangs of conscience” about “70 years of brutal occupation”. Someone else demanded she say more, saying that Ms. Perelman “looks exactly like one of those hostages in Gaza who is being tortured and raped.”

“The fury in my DMs was unparalleled,” Ms. Perelman said in an interview, adding that even before she acknowledged the attacks she had already received a torrent of messages criticizing her “silence.” “It felt like either I was ignoring genocide or I wasn’t calling it genocide when it happened, or I wasn’t using enough inflammatory language.”

People working in a variety of industries – ranging from well-known online influencers to people with much less prominent online profiles, including a yoga teacher, an interior designer, and tech and real estate workers – said in interviews that they felt they had to share their views about the war. Faced with the expectation of sharing opinions. , Pressure is expressed explicitly or subtly by friends and followers. Many people see silence as a statement of their own.

However, he said he realized that posting came at a cost, including angry outbursts and personal attacks. This is especially complicated for those like Ms. Perelman, whose livelihood depends on constantly updating her feed on topics that are often not political.

Some people who have publicly reacted to the war, particularly in support of Palestinian statehood, have faced professional repercussions, including members of Harvard student groups, who were shocked when those groups Posted an open letter blaming Israel after Hamas attacks. The editor of Artforum was fired after the magazine’s staff published an open letter supporting Palestinian liberation, and the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar was fired after calling the cutting of water and electricity to civilians in Gaza “the most inhumane thing.” Faced calls to resign after. I have seen in my life.” He immediately apologized.

“You see a lot of posts and videos saying, ‘Your silence is deafening’ — that’s a very challenging thing to respond to,” said Phoebe Lind, 24, who works at an energy start-up in Washington. Is.” She had not yet shared her opinions about the war online, although she was still considering doing so.

Of course, many people consider posting about war on social media to be of great importance. It signals support for harmed communities and can educate followers, potentially influencing decision makers and helping process important emotions.

Social media feeds have focused on major news events many times before. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is a uniquely thorny and divisive issue to navigate on social media, however, especially for those who are not educated about the region or its history, or who have yet to form their own opinions. Have been.

Maddie Coppola, 25, is an interior designer in New York who typically uses Instagram to follow design trends and learn about new restaurants. Over the past two weeks, her feed has been split in two, with some friends posting that they “stand with Israel” and others posting infographics about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Ms. Coppola has avoided engaging in discussions on social media because, she said, she has struggled to find information about the conflict that she trusts, and she feels that her own views have evolved. Are happening. She also worries about disturbing friends or colleagues with her posts.

“I don’t want to bring it into my work life,” Ms. Coppola said. “You have to tread very carefully, especially when you’re coming from a place where you don’t feel like you know a lot about what’s going on.”

The complexity and scale of the conflict may, for some, seem almost impossible to convey across posts on Instagram and X. Many people find that their friends or relatives want them to post or repost some indication of their political leanings, yet sharing what they say will not reveal the depth of their feelings or thoughts.

“The current discussion of this issue seems very depressing,” said Andrey Romanov, who works in communications for a university. “There is no room for nuance.”

Najath Fahima, who is Muslim and works at an interfaith charity in Singapore, said she is acutely aware of the impact of the conflict on Muslim and Jewish communities. People from both religions asked him to post about the war on social media, he said, and they were sending him graphic pictures. Ms Fahima, 38, said some users had trolled her, asking: “Are you also Muslim?”

Instead she chose to write a post about her decision to keep her thoughts private as it took time to process her feelings.

“I can’t put into words the pain I went through to decide to post on this topic,” she said. “Worrying about which friend won’t be friends with me, worrying about who will attack me and even wondering: Are people thinking I’m just a bad person?”

The speed at which the social media cycle moves can create pressure to post about news events just hours after they occur, sometimes even before there are many known facts about what happened. This is compounded by the fact that on Facebook and Instagram, the Stories feature disappears after 24 hours, prompting people to post fresh content.

“Places like Instagram aren’t designed for activism — they’re designed to get people to engage with ads so corporations can make money,” said Meena B., a social activist and writer with more than 270,000 Instagram followers who uses that name. Used commercially. “The goal is to keep you posted and keep you engaged by posting consistently.”

“This is not the place for specifics,” he said, adding that he had not posted about the war. “This is not a space that often produces healthy dialogue in conversation.”

Given the backlash to outspoken people, some social media users are posting candid posts in the hopes that they will make members of their online communities feel safer and more comfortable disclosing their views.

“A lot of people don’t get on LinkedIn because they say, ‘Oh, it’s a professional network,'” said Agniesz Kang, 37, who, after working in retail, is job searching using her LinkedIn profile. She does, she said, express concern about civilian deaths in Gaza, which is important to her as a “brown woman”.

Ms Kang added, “I posted knowing that it could potentially affect my job prospects.” “I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t value freedom of speech and would penalize me for speaking out on an important topic.”

Ms. Perelman said she had no regrets about accepting the struggle. In this social environment, she said, “If people are going to be angry at me for something they think, I’d like them to be angry at me for things I really think.”

Ms. Perelman shared her experience with the hateful messages on Instagram and used it as a call for donations to World Central Kitchen, a global nonprofit that provides fresh food to those in need during the crisis. , and raises over $180,000. “This shows that people want to channel their helpless, frustrated energy into something productive,” he said.

“When you’re public and you have open DMs, you’re like a lightning rod for it,” he said. “I sympathize with those, along with all of us, who are hurting and don’t know what to do with this frustration – I just want people to understand that yelling in a cookbook author’s DMs isn’t going to bring hostages home.”

yiwen lu Contributed to the reporting.

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