(Reuters) — As bombs explode in Gaza, Palestinian teenager Farah Baker grabs her smartphone or laptop before ducking for cover to tap out tweets that capture the drama of the tumult and fear around her.
The 16-year-old’s prolific posts on Twitter have made her a social media sensation through the month-old conflict. Once a little known high school athlete, Baker’s following on the Web site has jumped from a mere 800 to a whopping 166,000.
Living near Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, where her father is a surgeon, provides Baker with a live feed of blaring ambulance sirens in addition to blasts from Israeli air strikes and shelling attacks.
Baker often records these and posts video clips to provide followers with a quick personal glimpse of the war.
A tweet from Aug. 1 included a link to a video of a darkened street punctuated by the sounds of repeated explosions. In another tweet Baker tells of hiding from the shelling in one of the rooms of her home.
“I am trying to tell the world about what I feel and what is happening where I live,” Baker told Reuters at her Gaza home, adding that she has been “trying to make other people feel as if they are experiencing it, too”.
Baker, whose Twitter profile photo shows a blue-eyed frightened looking young woman calling herself “Guess what”, or @Farah_Gazan, said she’s surprised at the popularity she has garnered.
“I did not expect it. I was writing for a small circle of people, and the number has become too many,” she said.
Baker dreams of becoming a lawyer, hoping to use that profession as a means to advocate for crowded and impoverished Gaza, a coastal territory wedged between Israel and Egypt.
It isn’t always easy to overcome her fears to tweet, but she feels compelled to go on.
“I see this is the only way I can help Gaza, showing what is happening here. Sometimes I tweet while am crying or too scared but I tell myself, I should not stop,” Baker said.
The thing about youth web culture is that kids of every background will appropriate trends to fit their own lifestyles. It’s not so easy for fashion, music or even food. But a social media meme? It’ll tear across the Internet, equally amusing to young netizens regardless of gender, race or class. And if Internet access is allowed in the home, it will even find its way to the Orthodox.
Consider the animated GIF. It’s a retro image file type from way back in the early days of blogs — a low-resolution, quick burst of video. Though the technology was popular circa 1998, it’s making a comeback 15 years later. GIFs are usually used to comedic effect. The most popular sort is the “reaction GIF,” in which one posts a video snippet of a funny facial expression (usually a pop-culture reference) to convey an exaggerated form of one’s emotional response to news. The reaction GIF trend snowballed into a series of Tumblr “microblogs” that detail the joys, disappointments and idiosyncrasies of various youth sub-cultures and lifestyles: law school, fraternities, raves, summer camps and so on.
This essay is in response to Elissa Strauss’ “Why I Don’t Post Photos of My Baby on Facebook.”
I used to get a kick out of the stereotypically prideful mother, the one who shows wallet-sized photos of her children to anyone within eyeshot. It seemed she was desperately seeking praise for perfectly coordinated outfits and candid smiles peering out from the generic background of a department store photo shoot. That will never be me, I thought. Ever.
And then I became a mom. While I have not subjected my toddler to a photography session at the local mall, I certainly fit into a more current stereotype: the Social Media Mom. Like many proud parents in this age of over-sharing, I regularly post pictures of my daughter on Facebook and Instagram. A lot of pictures. From her first messy bites of avocado as an infant to the precious tears she cried because the library was closed a few weeks ago, I post it all.
Superficially, I do this because it’s an easy way to share photos with family and friends we don’t see on a regular basis. But I also recognize that my entire Facebook network doesn’t need to bear witness to every mundane activity and milestone.
So why do it? Why post photos of my daughter eating a sandwich or swinging at the park when they only generate a handful of “likes” and a couple of comments from the same five relatives?
Last weekend, two seemingly unconnected things happened. First, my glasses case destroyed itself, and second, a lot of people wrote a lot of things speculating about Chuck Hagel’s possible nomination for Defense Secretary.
Consequently I a) searched Etsy for glasses cases (and iPhone covers, necklaces and wristlets) and b) read a lot of articles about Chuck Hagel. Articles about Hagel, who has claimed that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington and who was the only U.S. senator who declined to sign a 1999 letter condemning Russian anti-Semitism, tend to rapidly attract infuriating comments (kind of like all writing about anything remotely connected to Jews).
But there was one place on the Internet last weekend where there was no Israel-bashing, no Jew-baiting, no mean-spirited ignorance, and no evidence of Jews taking to their keyboards to rail against each other over small divisions. And that place, surprisingly, was Etsy.
Rep. Anthony Weiner reportedly used a sexual stereotype about Jewish women in Facebook sexting with a young Jewish woman, according to this account on Radar Online. This pathetic story just keeps getting more appalling.
Weiner, a 46-year-old Jewish congressman who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens and was considered the leading candidate in New York’s next mayoral race, admitted in a press conference Monday that lewd tweets, Facebook messages and crotch shots sent to several women who are not his wife were indeed from him. One of those women is 40-year-old Lisa Weiss, a Las Vegas blackjack dealer who is Jewish and offered to perform oral sex on him. According to Radar Online, Weiner responded, “wow a jewish girl who sucks (bleep)! this thing is ready to do damage.” The Radar report continued, “The reference to a stereotype of Jewish women’s aversion to the sex act is sure to create more heat under a scandal that is already red hot.”
At least his wife of 11 months, Huma Abedin, broke form in the spate of scandals from those of then-President Bill Clinton to Eliot Spitzer and Dominique Strauss-Kahn and didn’t stand up next to Weiner at his press conference clad in a good suit, a statement necklace and a stalwart expression.