A Non-Velvety Detox

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

The Oxford Dictionary of 2018 has considered the word of the year to be the adjective “toxic,” whose use and the number of discussions surrounding it has increased several times over.

A lot of things both figuratively and literally were toxic – emissions, relationships, the environment, sexual distribution, people, food, music, and so on.

Moreover, that word is not a synonym of poison, but something with supposed poisonous content, being radioactive. Hint that something has grown so much in different places that it has become risky and toxic.

People have become toxic, places have become toxic, the air, the climate, clothing, behavior.

Toxic is a “puff”, a sign of “caution.”

2018 in Armenia has been fixated with the word “velvet.” That was our response to the world and to ourselves. Velvet does not notice toxicity, but softly and pleasantly covers the sharp edges of the toxic environment, making it unnoticed and unimportant.

Like the snow that softens and rounds the outlines of objects and ideas.

Now it seems that the public mood in Armenia is slowly slipping out of the soft velvet blanket and stretching its legs to other blankets that are covered in a field of hatred and a kind veil of self-expression.

But they are actually thorny, uncomfortable and toxic.

Our relationships in social media are literally toxic.

If the money needed for Satenik’s cure for cancer has been collected through social networking sites (in just two days) and the people who donated the money are sincerely and completely proud of themselves (with both their conscience satiated and Satenik), then why not pass through the hot and cold wind currents in good conscience too?

On the one hand, we are velvety, compassionate, reliable, bleeding hearts, cooking and cleaning, on the other hand,  we spread curses, burying those with opposing opinions, burning them, threatening.

You read the comments on the social media pages of serious media and want to escape from poisonous, radioactive, and literally toxic words and thoughts.

Some things are written under the content of Radio Liberty live reports posted on YouTube, which cannot be repeated. And it is not being deleted.

Comments left on “1in.am” throw you into a coma where you stay for as long as the toxic injection of words stretches and a little more until the hope of detoxification shines through.

Of course, the commenter is the last person on the face of the world, but no one is insured against the poison of the toxic environment.

They can be insured if the media insures it.

It’s not even a question of the law or ethical obligations, it’s the dignity of the platform. There is no alternative: the toxic must be erased, cleaned, and that’s that.

You are obligated to delete it if you have at least one drop of self-respect, by representing an opinion-generating media.

The compassionate and sexually explicit writer may not be the same person, but there shouldn’t be such a big gap between them. They say one thing here, another there, express one behavior in one situation, while in another situation behave in a completely different way.

It is clear that nowadays many media platforms in Armenia, including those with extensive coverage, are only happy to see a toxic environment.

And the style and quality of many news feeds have only one purpose: to disrupt any attempts at detoxification and to increase the dosage of poison.

But the problem is velvet, or rather the velvety methods used on those media platforms which think that the way to respond to toxicity is simply PR and the recreation of an ideal world.

It is an illusion that the poison in the media can be excreted from the brain (heart, lungs, liver) with an antidote.

Injections of hatred, wickedness, and bias are not cleansed by the opposite signs of hatred and wickedness, through noble PR.

Toxicity is overcome only with quality content, including in the comments, reproductions, and branching of that content, which are capable of changing the general climate conditions.

It is not enough to say that heinous comments are a sign of freedom of speech in public spaces.

After all, the media is also the bearer of the quality of its comments section, not an impassioned territory and a neutral zone of objectivity.

Of course, writers of toxic comments do it consciously and for a fee or simply by the dictates of the heart and intellect. In both cases, the media is responsible for the contaminated ecosystems which are formed.

Interestingly, there were a few Words of the Year in 2019, but they all had to do with ecology. The good word is upcycling, the process of creating something new out of something useless.

For example, the step-by-step task of squeezing out hate speech and swear words from our thoughts.

And does the media need that work? Now, no, but tomorrow they will.

Nune Hakhverdyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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