Social Media and Down Syndrome: The Tyranny of Numbers

Social Media and Down Syndrome: The Tyranny of Numbers

By Dr. Azadeh Abbaszadeh*

TEHRAN – Let’s assume that you are standing inside the elevator of a 100-floor tower all day and all night long, for 24 hours, and your home is on the 70th floor; after a while, you notice that everyone who enters the elevator gets off at their floor and you are just an onlooker. Then, as time goes on, you realize that, strangely, the elevator never stops on the 70th floor. What will you do? You may think that you can get off the elevator on the 69th floor and use the stairs. How would you feel if I said that you are not going to get off that elevator at all during those 24 hours? What do you do now? What if I tell you that you have to spend the rest of your life, and not just these 24 hours, but your whole life, in the same elevator? What is your decision then? Why and for what reason do you not have the right to leave the elevator? Here is the answer to the latter question: Because you are invisible, no one else can see you, and the only person who knows you exist at all and want to get off on the 70th floor is you and only you! I do know that even the thought of being in such a situation destroys the mind.

Now, around the world, there are rulers known as social media. There is an important principle in the social media governance system, i.e., respect for numbers. You have to respect numbers on social media, and if you do not follow this principle, only one result will await you – invisibility. In the world of social networking sites, there are unwritten principles accepted almost universally by many users, which, like an unwritten protocol, follow a set of fixed rules to maximize audience engagement. If you do not follow these rules, there will still be one result waiting for you – invisibility. If you do not imitate these rules, you will become invisible, will not be seen, and will be eliminated non-physically. Among this type of media, users are identified by numbers. The higher the number of likes, views, reposts, followers, and the like, the higher the user’s reputation on that social networking site. Therefore, the more seriously you take the numbers, the less likely you are to become invisible!

In all the different types of social media, many users happen to be in the invisible and deleted category. These invisible users have features of which I will highlight a few.

In their posted pictures, these users laugh whenever they are really happy, and they stop laughing whenever they are really sad. They do not pretend to be happy just for the camera.

When choosing a caption for their posts, these users do not make a choice just to share dozens of literary sentences from philosophers and poets, the names of whom they did not even know ten minutes before making that post. They do not share captions just to show off and indicate how literate they are. No…they do not choose their captions like this. These users’ captions, which sometimes contain only a few words, come from their innermost beings.

Their selfies capture the purest, most authentic, and most realistic moments possible, and their selfies show the reality of a pair of eyes at that particular moment.

These users do not insist on posting, they do not have opinions about every economic, social, political, and cultural event considered as the top news headline of the day, they do not like to be experts in all world affairs, they live a quiet life, and they only talk about things they are very knowledgeable about.

These users never attempt to increase the number of their followers by following other pages and unfollowing them just after accepting the request. They do not decide to unfollow these pages quietly and unethically. They do not use such a strategy to continuously promote their pages in terms of the number of followers. No, they do not do this because they are ethical.

These users are real. When posting photos of their faces, they do not spend tedious hours to learn Photoshop tricks to edit, for example, the natural wrinkles on their faces, and make themselves more beautiful than they really are. They have learned to be themselves under any circumstances.

They do not get involved in the market of trading followers for their pages just to show themselves more valuable than they are because they already know that if a person wants to follow their pages just for themselves, that person is definitely not buyable.

These users never leave heartbreaking and annoying comments on other users’ pages.

They are as they should be and have not been resized by the use of silicone. Basically, they are satisfied and confident with themselves.

These users respect people of all colors, races, countries, and religions because they are fair and have one of the healthiest ways of thinking in social networking sites.

These very rare and unique users on social media are people with Down Syndrome. Nearly 200 users with Down Syndrome of different nationalities who were relatively active on social media were monitored for several months. What was reviewed were their posts, concerns, followers, followings, the comments left on their pages, the content of the comments, the number of views of their videos, which in many cases reflected their demands and support for the human rights of people with Down Syndrome, the content of their images and texts that included the most humanitarian concepts, the extent of their interaction with other users on social media, the level of interaction the other users had with them, and their reactions to different everyday concepts. The results showed that over 80% of people who followed the pages of people with Down Syndrome and were in relatively mutual interactions with them were other people with Down Syndrome, the immediate family members of people with Down Syndrome, institutions active in the field of Down Syndrome, and civil activists in this field.

Where is the rest of society?

A question arises here.

Does social media take responsibility for the widespread non-physical elimination, explicit discrimination, and, in other words, the invisibility of several users that occur within the same networks and takes place by the majority of other users?

Another question is:

Do social networks accept the responsibility that in practice, they change people’s tastes and, in a more comprehensive sense, lifestyles? Does social media take responsibility for their powerful influence on changing the perception of various strata of society towards another stratum?

Another question is that whether social networking sites have defined a mission for themselves at all. or if the essence of their work is only business? Do they just want to make money? Is that all? Now, if we want to think a little more optimistically and believe that the founders of social media have not yet completely forgotten their mission and why they were formed, here again, a question arises:

Have there ever been thoughts or concerns in the think tanks of various social media to promote pages that belonged to people with Down Syndrome and help them to be seen more and in a better light? Again, we remind you that we are talking about helping these people to improve and make their pages more visible, some of whose unique features were listed in the previous few paragraphs. Such users are among the very few ethical ones.

Here, we are talking very clearly and precisely about people who in their normal lives, apart from social media, are not competing closely for numbers in every moment of their lives, unlike us, other members of the society. They, quite simply, have no idea how to engage in more charlatan behaviors and bully in order to benefit solely themselves. In their intellectual world, numbers do not rule, and then, at the same time, they are active in social media with the same mindset, where just numbers rule. In this way, they are confronted with something more poisonous than any poison and that is other users’ indifference towards them. Indeed, small numbers of social media users, i.e., users with Down Syndrome, are eliminated again and again in the unequal and unfair competition in the virtual environments of such networks, as in many other life opportunities and places outside these networks, in which they are just eliminated.

However, at this point, we come into the main and biggest questions.

Is it possible for different social media networks and their creators and owners to make the pictures, videos, and posts of users with Down Syndrome more accessible for other users? Is it possible for different social media networks and their creators and owners to, for example, encourage people with Down Syndrome by promoting their Instagram posts in the Explorer and introduce one of the most successful users with Down Syndrome to the world every week for free? Is it possible for a social networking site, like Instagram, to increase the visibility of videos, such as sports and art, etc., belonging to people with Down Syndrome so that they could be seen more by other users? Is it possible for a social networking site, like Twitter, to tweet posts related to successful sports, art, cultural, and educational achievements of people with Down Syndrome who succeed after overcoming many obstacles and hardships? Is it possible for a social networking site, like Facebook, to advertise pages of people with Down Syndrome once a week or month? For a social networking site, such as Instagram, is it possible to create an option related to Down Syndrome that displays shopping, architecture, food, art, style, fashion, music, etc., and, in this section, only promote pages of people with Down Syndrome at least a few days a month?

The answer to each of these questions is a few words: Yes, it is possible.

And here is the last question.

Is making cultural policies related to users with Down Syndrome aimed at improving and promoting these people’s quality of life important for the owners and creators of social media?

I truly do not know the answer to this question: Whether the owners of social media have even thought about this issue for once or not?

If I tell you that one day, the owners and creators of these social media networks will spend money, seek to hire ethical users with a pure mind for human and moral stylization in some dark and intellectually polluted environments of some social media users, take action, and call for more of these types of users – would this shock you?

The only thing I can understand is that some of the existing social media platforms are changing the intellectual-human-moral balance and in some cases, it is quite disappointing.

I really do not know why the human potential and capabilities of users with Down Syndrome are not used by these media managers in social networking sites?

An image has just crossed my mind. If, for example, time went back and it was now around 1947 and social media had just started working, and tomorrow, for example, was December 10, 1948, the morning that the 48 countries unanimously defended human dignity, equality, brotherhood, justice, conscience, and freedom from all forms of discrimination and adopted a resolution entitled the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I believe that in addition to the 48 countries that voted in favor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at least two people must have signed it to protect the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Two people who are the two owners of two lands. Lands without any geographical map and normal physical borders of ​​a country. Two lands called Facebook and Twitter.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear users of all social media and the owners of each of these networking sites:

About seventy years ago, Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioned that &… All human beings are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and any incitement to such discrimination…

*Dr. Azadeh Abbaszadeh

President of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Iran

Founder & CEO of Down Syndrome Division in Cellular-Molecular Research Center at IUMS

Founder & CEO of “Wall47” :


Email: Azadeh.Abbaszadeh@gmail.com

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.

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December 2023