Fashion aficionados, makeup artists, celebrities and experts in different fields converged under one roof this weekend to support a unique initiative – Beyond Beautiful – which aimed to celebrate the spirit of beauty which is inclusive.
The last day of the three-day creative campaign comprised an exhibition-and-conference with discussions regarding different subjects such as health, wellness, beauty and nutrition. One such session was a panel discussion on Social Media and its Impact on the Perception of Beauty chaired by fashion journalist Aamna Haider Isani, along with actress Mawra Hocane, Dubai based beauty blogger Manal Muffin, Alia Fawad from ITP Dubai and general paediatrician Kishwar Enam as other panelists.
Speaking at the session, Alia Fawad was of the opinion that though media changes the way we see beauty, everyone with a smart phone is a citizen journalist and has an opinion. The responsibility of what we see on social media still lies on an individual. “What you are putting out there is a reflection of you and it should be sensitive towards the culture,” she said.
As somebody who is in the public eye, Mawra felt that media should be moderated. “Trolling is already out of control. People write whatever they want due to anonymity on social media but what bothers me more is how publications and blogs have no censorship. They create and encourage trolling,” she said, reflecting on the fact that instead of doing reports or constructive stories, they pick up stories on how stars are being trolled.
From left to right: Manal Muffin, Dr. Kishwar Enam, Aamna Haider Isani, Mawra Hocane and Alia Fawad
Dr. Kishwar Enam shared that not only teenagers and adults but adolescents are also subjected to this nasty abuse online. “These days even kids are on these digital platforms with false IDs. It is such a fragile age and the formative years of a child’s life. It’s the time when an individual is forming an identity and we see children seeking approval from their friends and peer groups. They are being shamed and cyber-bullied and studies have proven a direct association of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and deaths with the phenomena,” she said.
“Media also continues to expose young minds to unrealistic ideals. We need to make children aware so that they critically review the content and also parents need to get more involved in their children’s activities. They should watchfully inform children that the beauty standards set up by the media goes through various levels of editing and photoshopping,” Dr. Kishwar added.
Manal Muffin, the 21-year old influencer from Dubai, felt that one should simply avoid responding to negative comments. “These trolls are seeking validation; the more you respond to them, the more they will grow.”
To this, Mawra added how she was often trolled for her voice.
“How I am supposed to ignore comments about something which is beyond my control? We say that we put up a brave face and we should learn to ignore but in the end we are not thick-skinned; these harsh comments do get to me especially when it’s about my family and closed ones,” the actress said.
Manal also had a motivating take on the promotion of beauty products on her blog. “I am always up for promoting natural beauty and I decline when brands approach me to promote a product I don’t believe in, like lip plumpers. I have a moral responsibility towards the 13 to 18 year olds who follow me. I won’t propagate that you have to make your lips fuller or your jaw should be chiseled in a certain way to appear pretty,” she said.
During the discussion, Dr. Kishwar was asked the best way to monitor children’s exposure to social media. The paediatrician expressed that “children shouldn’t be allowed any more than 2 hours of screen time, while kids less than 2 years should not be exposed to any kinds of screens.”
Before concluding the session, the women-only panel requested the satirist Ali Gul Pir – standing amidst the audience – to share a man’s point of view about social media trolling. Ali said that as a comedian he only targets the absurdities in an artist’s professional work and steer clear of their personal lives.
“I only make fun of people who enjoy a certain privilege in society be it as politicians or a man who stare publicly,” Ali said, “I also tolerate it when other people make fun of my work as well.”
The message to take away from the session was that the onus to be responsible on social media platforms lay on individuals, while publications – in their own right – could avoid publishing content that was irresponsible and mean. Social media, on the whole, was a game changer, which came with its own set of pros and cons.