TikTok took the world by storm, amassing as many as 800 million active users worldwide – currently at around 500 million, now that India has banned the Chinese video app. The app has been hailed as a platform which democratises the internet, allowing for a space for people from different backgrounds able to consume and share content.
New trends arise every month, and worm their way into other social media platforms as well. But these trends have a downside as well – a side which opens up a space for the consumption of horror, trauma and pain in way that exploits the victims of various tragedies.
One recent Tik Tok trend involves people pretending to be Holocaust victims in heaven. In these #POV, or point-of-view videos, the content creators can be seen explaining their cause of ‘death’ while wearing a striped inmate outfit or one of the armbands marked with the Star of David that Jews were ordered to wear in nazi Germany. They also have makeup on, depicting bruises and burns from concentration camps. Some of these videos have received millions of views.
Let’s quickly note here, that the Holocaust saw the genocide of six million European Jews people and more than a million people were killed at Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945.
Though several Holocaust survivors have condemned the videos for promoting anti-semitism, the creators claim that the videos are a way of educating and spreading awareness about Nazi Germany and the holocaust.
Diane Saltzman, the director of survivor affairs at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, has said that the imitation of the Holocaust dishonours the memory of the victims, and is offensive to survivors. The Auschwitz museum also called the trend “hurtful and offensive”.
The ‘victims’ trend on TikTok can be hurtful & offensive. Some videos are dangerously close or already beyond the border of trivialization of history.
But we should discuss this not to shame & attack young people whose motivation seem very diverse. It’s an educational challenge. pic.twitter.com/CB4Ve2uRUK
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 26, 2020
With these videos, conversations about our perverse fascination with other people’s misery and misfortune have come to the fore. This is not the first time content creators have used education as an excuse and justification to create videos that are inherently disrespectful and violent. In April, a similar kind of trend – with videos depicting domestic and physical abuse against women – was on the rise.
The major problem is that these videos fail to depict the complexities and mental trauma of being a victim of the Holocaust, domestic abuse or racism. Moreover, it is the unaffected community that shares their opinions and forms dramatic narratives. The victims and the survivors are left out of the picture completely.
Only yesterday, while scrolling on Instagram, I came across yet another compilation of videos that depicted Holocaust survivors in heaven. The videos not only made me uncomfortable, but also infuriated me.
It got me thinking, what was it that made me feel this way – my helplessness that I couldn’t do something about it? The guilt of having the privilege of not having experienced the same fate? The burden to speak about it?
Such trends also unnecessarily create the pressure to be ‘woke’ and further perpetuate the falsities of performance activism. They also cause attention fatigue, as the videos do catch our attention but not for long enough to have a lasting impact – thus promoting passive consumption. And TikTok’s short clips can do nothing but fail to give space to the complexity of such issues.
Some things are no laughing matter, nor should they be made the inspiration for viral trends and clicks. This is one trend that just really needs to end.
Muskaan Kanodia is a third-year student at Ashoka University and has an immense interest in gender and sexuality studies.
Featured image credit: Reuters