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'Be like Bilal' meme an example of potential for constructive criticism in social media — sociologist

By Dana Al Emam - Jan 14,2016 - Last updated at Jan 14,2016

AMMAN — Social media outlets could function as catalysts for positive attitudes and tools to curb online hate speech, particularly among young users, sociologist Majd Adeen Khamash said on Thursday.

Trends that encourage positive behaviour among social media users are "important and need to be encouraged and sustained", added Khamash, a professor at the University of Jordan.

Under the slogan "Be like Bilal" Jordanian social media users have been sharing sketches of the imaginary character Bilal with remarks about his positive qualities, inviting others to "be like him".

"Bilal could be seen as an influential good citizen who abides by the law and rules of conduct, an attractive character and possibly a desired role model for youth," Khamash told The Jordan Times over the phone.

Instead of aggressively criticising "inappropriate" real life or virtual behaviour, such trends could be a more appealing, polite and efficient methods for constructive criticism, he noted.

In a couple of days, the "Bilal" trend has spread widely, promoting positive social behaviour and discouraging negative attitudes.

An example of shared Bilal memes is "Bilal admits his mistakes and tries to fix them instead of claiming there was a plot against him; Bilal is smart; be like Bilal."

Another one is "Bilal is sitting with his friend; the friend gives Bilal his phone to see a picture; Bilal does not scroll to see other pictures; Bilal is smart; be like Bilal."

Other social media behaviour such as excessively posting photos of meals and "checking in" restaurants and cafés also came in for criticism.

Facebook user Nour Moustafa expressed her admiration of the trend as an "intelligent" way to express sarcasm and dismay over some practices.

Ironically, some users have totally missed the point behind the trend and used it to create divisions.

An example is praising supporters of one football team, while offending supporters of its rival.

"There will always be individuals who misuse such tools and employ them to spread negative thoughts," Khamash said.

Some private companies and institutions have also used the meme to market their products and services.

 

The concept of Bilal has been circulating around the world under other names like Bill, John and Jaafar in social media.

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