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OP-ED: Sixty seconds of sinister fame

  • Published at 06:52 pm October 18th, 2020
Can TikTok survive and thrive
Photo: Bigstock

In a world of gangs, drugs, and TikTok

We know all about the frenzy over short TikTok videos, where 60-second films are made and uploaded for others to see.

Earlier, the time limit was 15 seconds but, with the soaring popularity of the videos, featuring lip syncing to film songs to dancing to catchy tunes to acting, the time limit was increased.

From one angle, it’s just harmless fun for young people who want to upload videos, and get appreciation and a fair amount of recognition. 

However, the sinister side of the obsession with making videos has emerged recently after several girls were rescued by law enforcement when they were locked in a room and violated by young teenagers who had invited the girls under the pretext of making TikTok videos.

Reportedly, the boys are well known among the social media user community and since they have a huge following, the girls, possibly driven by a desire to attain quick fame, believed them and did not hesitate to join them.

The infatuation with instant glory

With social media taking various formats, the driving motivation is swift glory. All of society is fascinated with the notion of getting rich quickly. 

The tendency to make it to the top in one go is ubiquitous. While mercenary ideals have viciously overtaken the “work hard and rise slowly” creed of the past, the biggest victims are the young who only follow what they see in adults. 

The zeitgeist of the time has become tainted to the extent that the glitz of success blinds almost everyone. In the face of wealth and social recognition, probing questions crumble. 

Since no one asks about the origin of wealth or the legitimacy of the road to success, there is a feeling that any method adopted to become a star is kosher.

To make a point very clear, there is nothing wrong with TikTok as long as it’s just for a little fun. Unfortunately, the aspiration to become super popular opens up several shady paths littered with drugs, teenage crimes, and youth gangs. 

Recently, a TV channel ran a report on how the Diabari area near Uttara has become a TikTok recording spot. It’s only normal that certain areas may become more popular than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, though the locals have reportedly said that the gangs who take part in the recording often prevent the locals from moving freely around the shooting spots. 

As one local of Diabari put it: “Some groups are civilized; they do their recordings and go away, but others occupy the whole area. Their noisy presence and brash attitude intimidate others.” 

The same TV report also found a link between TikTok groups and unauthorized rave parties where drugs are available, along with rooms for getting intimate. For an adult, the issue of getting close to someone is solely a personal matter; however, many of the party-goers are teenagers who are smitten with the notion of social media triumph and may end up doing something rash.

Raves and religion

In the same TV sting operation, we see a rave party ticket-seller who arrives wearing a hijab and it’s obvious that the modest dressing has very little to do with religious restrictions and is more about ensuring anonymity.

The misuse of the Islamic dress is common now. From adult escorts to swindlers to con women, the burqa is usually the preferred attire. The girl who was selling the tickets was asked if rooms would be available at the party spot, to which she replied positively without missing a beat. This is proof that demand for private rooms in such parties is common and is one of the more appealing features.

From the surface, a few dozen youngsters singing, dancing, and cavorting may appear pretty harmless, though this may well be the carefully projected façade for much more dubious engagements.

The rooms which are given to couples desiring privacy may have secretly placed cameras to record them, which may later be used for blackmail. Such recordings also have a demand in the market and can be sold for a hefty profit.

With the ongoing outrage over the surge of rapes across the country, special attention needs to be given to young group gatherings, which may otherwise seem innocuous. 

Youth peddling yaba

One of the most reliable ways to peddle yaba is to employ teenagers or children between the ages of 7-10.

To relate from personal experience, before the government initiated crackdown, there were several young boys and girls who cycled around the Nilkhet area in the evenings. The bicycles were rather old, but the children rode them with such gusto that one could not but marvel at their excitement.

But the timing of the cycling, which was after sunset, seemed a little awkward because, as we all know, children usually play outdoors until sunset. 

As I threw away the civilian naivety and wore the journalist’s hat, it became clear that the children were actually sellers and carriers of drugs. They used their boisterous nature topped with adolescent insouciance to conceal the murky trade. Thankfully, the cycles are gone now, along with the children.

The organisers of rave parties may force wannabe TikTok stars to peddle drugs in exchange for a part in upcoming video shoots. 

The police hardly search teenagers who appear to be from educated backgrounds for drugs. Exploiting some preconceived ideas that teenagers between 10 and 15 cannot get involved in crime, the TikTok gangs spread their nefarious nets. 

Partying should be allowed with the presence of responsible adults and the law. Resorts giving space to parties must also demand authorization from the nearby police station before they open their premises to teenagers.

Realistically speaking, trends like TikTok and others will thrive, making way for other such fads to take over in time. We just need to be vigilant that youthful pleasure is free from such perils.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist and teaches at the University of Dhaka.

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