Social media scandal completed another cycle on Lebanese Twitter yesterday, after a 19-year-old nursing student posted an inappropriate joke on Instagram.
Karen Akl, a student at Beirut’s University Saint-Joseph, made what might generously be called an ill-advised Instagram post on her first day at a midwifery internship: a selfie in pink scrubs, with the caption “be careful b*tches coz we can kill your babies #Oneday”.
The offensive comment also tagged Hotel-Dieu de France, the hospital where Karen was training, and was posted to 14,000 followers on the girl’s private account. Its consequences, however, went much further than even that not-inconsiderable number of users.
Within hours Karen had been expelled from her university, which made a public announcement on Twitter stating that the public comment meant the girl’s employment could pose a danger to patients.
The response from the Lebanese blogosphere was, perhaps, even more damaging. On Twitter, people responded by calling the girl a whore, saying she was fit only to work as a stripper and criticizing her looks.
However, many commenters disagreed with the harsh reaction, both from the university and Twitterati. The majority of responses to USJ’s announcement of expulsion chided the institution for overreacting, arguing that young people should be given a second chance. Lebanon’s problems, many said, were much bigger than the tweets of a 19-year-old nursing student.
Other users started a petition to give Karen her own TV show or suggested #JeSuisKarenAkl as a new hashtag.
So sad to see many Lebanese social media types piling on a young woman and destroying her life for a joke (which is in bad taste)— Mustapha Hamoui (@Beirutspring) 15 March 2016
.@USJLiban Bravo USJ. Very Christian of you. You don't believe in forgiveness? I am sure her words hurt less than your corrupt institution.— Bernard Batrouni (@Batrouni) 15 March 2016
Today, the online turmoil has left many Lebanese twitterers reflecting on the priorities of their national institutions – and the power of an online mob to destroy the career of a young woman.
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