Food is very personal. It is not just a need. Food often embodies certain feelings: familiarity, relaxation, routine, or even stress. We eat in different types of situations and have our own, very personal preferences.
At the same time, however, we are more and more alienated from what is on our plates, on the table and in our hands. Do you sometimes wonder where the steak, sausage or burger you are eating comes from? Personal satisfaction reflects ethical decisions, and private concerns can be very political in nature. Each of us ought to decide what we want to eat. But responsible consumption is something that an increasing number of people demand. Then again, they need information on which to base their decisions.
How can normal consumers understand the global impact caused by their meat consumption? How many people realize that our demand for meat is directly responsible for clearing the Amazon rainforest? Who is aware of the consequences of industrial livestock production for poverty and hunger, displacement and migration, animal welfare, or on climate change and biodiversity?
I was kind of reluctant to jump on the whole “Social Media is not real” bandwagon, but since I feel like I have something to add to the whole Essena O’neil saga, here goes:
The best decision I have ever made was going vegan. Period. And I have taken lots of major decisions in my life, from moving to a foreign country, to enrolling in uni, to getting married and, most recently, going into yoga teacher training. No other step I have ever made was so rewarding, so eye-opening and enlightening.
Why did I do it? You guessed it - social media. I stumbled upon @freeleebananagirl at one point, initially just wanted to be fit and healthy like her and then recongnized that the whole veganism thing was way bigger than me. It was about billions upon billions of animals that die every year because of the livestock industry.
Every day, heaps of people on social media stumble upon the vegan message like I did and decide to change their habits for the better. It has become a massive movement and it is changing the planet.
There are tons of other issues aside from veganism. I hardly think the Black Lives Matter movement would have raised so much awareness, has it not been for brave individuals who used social media to speak up, spread the message and even share private footage of police brutality.
Only a fraction of the mainstream media would have informed us about police brutality and hardly any mainstream media promotes veganism as a way of life, not to mention that no other platform has spread the shocking images from behind the walls of slaughterhouses the way social media has.
In this sense: SOCIAL MEDIA IS REAL LIFE. Police brutality is real life. So is discrimination, speciasism, environmental destruction and animal cruelty. And without social media - good luck spreading these messages on Fox News!
Are skinny girls with tiny waists, photoshopped faces and unattainable glitzy lives “real life”? No. And unfortunately they do fool a lot of young girls. And I dare say, the initial idea behind social media might have been to distract the masses with such meaningless bullshit. But for every spoiled brat modelling clothes on Instagram, there is at least one person with a meaningful message who would otherwise have no voice. For that one person, social media is a small hack into the system.
The smart thing to do is not leaving social media. It is to stay on social media and play by the rules to promote important messages. Essena might be really big right now. But that is because social media AND mainstream media are talking about her. In a few weeks, who knows, if anyone will still care?
I genuinely like Essena and I understand her frustration. But I am equally frustrated thinking of what an impact she could have had on many people’s lives, promoting veganism and mindfullness on social media. She would have been a real game changer.