Photo by Kateryna Malkina

On January 4th, 2019, an egg went viral. There was nothing special about this egg, except that it was posted with the single goal of getting more likes than the “most-liked” photo on instagram; a photo posted by Kylie Jenner of her baby. Some might say that was a noble enough goal, but I beg to differ.

After the egg went viral, and accumulated millions more likes than it needed to beat Jenner’s post, the previously anonymous poster, Chris Godfrey, revealed himself. He said that when he was thinking of how to break Jenner’s record he asked himself, “Could something as universal and simple as an egg be great enough to beat that record?” Indeed, it could. And in just 9 days. Now my question is, why did this egg garner so much attention? If over 50 million people can take time out of their day to find this account and like a particular photo, shouldn’t the photo be something more meaningful than an egg?

Photo by Kateryna Malkina

I will readily admit that, I too, liked the egg photo. I cannot psychoanalyze myself to tell you why I did, but I think a big part of it was that it felt rebellious and it felt like I was helping to  take away a small part of the fame that Kylie Jenner earned in a seemingly unmeaningful way. However, as I reflected on my decision more, I realized how hypocritical that action really was, because taking down Jenner’s fame with something else even more meaningless, just doesn’t seem productive. In hindsight we can see the discrepancy in value that we are inadvertently placing on certain things (i.e. an egg over a baby).

Going back to the idea of universality that Godfrey mentioned: I wonder why an image has to be so utterly simple in order to be deemed universal.

It seems to me that too much has become controversial these days.

Why isn’t an image of a suffering child universal? Why isn’t an image of the wreck of a storm universal? In general, why isn’t the plight and struggle of other human beings seen as something “universal”? Why can’t we find common ground on these things at least enough to all like an image that attempts to raise awareness about it?

Perhaps it is that these images of suffering children or storm wreckages instill a layer of discomfort, in contrast to an egg, which does not. I think as a generation we must push ourselves to be okay with discomfort. Because truth be told, liking an instagram post of an egg is not going to get us, as a society, anywhere, but liking an image of a community that is suffering due to drought, might.

Social media has the potential to be an incredible platform for intercultural sharing and understanding. However, as it is being used right now, it fails to reach this potential. In fact, it has, in several instances, achieved just the opposite. Of late, social media has been used as a tool of division and a platform for spewing hate. Perhaps this is part of the reason that we have whittled the positive elements of social media down to things so painfully simple such as memes and eggs…  Social media is a beast that must be tamed and trained, and one way to do that is by using it as a tool for activism. We must expand what we deem as universal and encourage others to see the humanity in issues that they can ordinarily detach themselves from.

Of course, what one deems as ‘activism’ is different for every person. However, I don’t know anyone who feels passionately about “egg activism”…Now, I don’t want to be blindly critical of the egg account. The account owners did eventually put their fame to good use and attempt to raise awareness about the pressure of social media, and the toll that it can take on one’s mental health. I think that this is a noble effort, but I also refuse to ignore the fact that the initial intent of the post was a petty battle for the most liked post.

Photo by Kateryna Malkina

As we have seen from images such as “The Tank Man” and the image of the Syrian child Alan Kurdi, viral social media and news posts can have immeasurable impact. These images shook the world, and brought a human face to issues whose severity and urgency were not previously acknowledged.

Images are powerful, social media is powerful, and we need to learn to harness that power more effectively.

Anna Beebe

About Anna Beebe