Labels: Our social résumés.

Listen to: Where is my mind – Piano cover.

I always hated labels. I tried to avoid them as long as I could. Being the “tall girl” in class, however, did not really help my cause. It is ironic that my elementary school memories revolve around teachers calling me “that tall girl” and always asking me to move to the back of the line – maybe a little sad, too.

Growing up, I learned that our society’s infrastructure is based on labels. She is blonde; he is short; they are religious; she is a spinster; he is bald, and so on. Needless to say adjectives always find their way along these dreaded labels, thus utilizing language in its ugliest forms. Language, however, is never ugly, people are ugly – their intentions are, anyway.

Then comes the part of being a 7alabi female, or Arab in general terms – the label hell breaks loose. In a typical lifespan of a 7alabi female, 18 is where she’s either married, getting married, engaged, getting engaged, or “msama 3alaiha.” And my goodness, labels flood in like a tsunami of stereotype being welcomed into our homes and blinding our youth. A guy can simply, with such ease, tell his mother he wants a tall, blonde, white, educated, gorgeous, thin, color-eyed, young female. It will not be offensive at all. I bet most people reading this will not understand what is offensive about it. I bet I am not making sense to anyone here because it is normal, it is 3ady, after all, how could the poor fella live with “god forbid” a brunette? Here is a little tip: Just because it’s socially acceptable, does not mean it is okay or 3ady.

Let me move away from social labeling and talk about social network labeling. I have been an active social networker since early 2009, way before the world got so much uglier. You know those “About me” or “bio” sections? I could never settle on what to write. I tried it all. I tried labeling myself, I tried un-labeling myself, and I even tried writing random things to avoid labeling myself, which by the way, I still do. I settled on a quote – How cliché.

Social networks exert such pressure on users to conform. Yes, each person has a different reason to join, but eventually we are all here to feel like we belong. What better way to belong than to give ourselves a few socially acceptable labels?

I doubt that we can even go a day without labeling ourselves or others. It is a flaw of me to expect that social media or the virtual world as a whole can be a utopia other than a society full of social taboos to “avoid.” I would, however, like to believe that in social media, I get to pick whose side to take. I get to belong to a not-so-stereotypical Syrian community. I get to meet people from other Arab countries and think, hey, they’re less labeling; I might want to settle there someday. Yet, we still managed to bring along a few crumbs of labeling.

Maybe I hated labels because I was never so sure or who I am, or perhaps due to the negative connotations my labels have. So yes, I am a believer in women’s rights; does that make me a feminist? I do not know. Yes, I write everyday and words are my sole source of overhyped joy, does that make me a writer? I do not know. Yes, I am, I am, and I am, but does that make anything at all? I do not know.

But here’s a good question: When did Twitter or any other social network become my social résumé? When did we even need a social résumé? Or is it when we decide that we do not want to be social outcasts and “belong” to a society we need to play the part of not being ourselves? If so, I have three bookshelves in my room full of imaginary worlds to live in.

 

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