ISLAMABAD'S DIGITAL DOYENNES - Sabah Bano Malik - Writer, Comedian And An RJ
Tell us about your journey on social media, did it start off a hobby, or did you always see it as a viable career option?
Today social media is mostly an extension of my resume as opposed to being a career choice I would say. I was actually pretty late to the game, while my peers started social media accounts as soon as they started working in fashion (Hello, Hello! My first job in fashion) I did not actually embark on a public account until about three years ago. For me it’s been a fun way to show all the hyphenated titles of my resume be that comedian, editor, writer, or even sometimes stylist but always I try to add a bit of a laugh. I think now it is a critical extension of anyone looking to go into a career where you the person is an important part of the job, like say media or design.
How do you characterise what you do? How do you feel about the word ‘influencer’?
I am a journalist, radio show host, activist and comedian, so I am all about media I guess? I actually do not think I fall under the umbrella of influencer. It’s interesting people take issue with ‘influencers,’ someone building themselves as a brand and gaining an audience and working with companies for their voice/aesthetic but we got no problem with celebrities selling us mattresses and cell phones they most definitely do not use. There is a bit of gatekeeping when it comes to finding success that I do not like. Influencers are predominantly women carving out success for themselves and putting in the work (and yes, it is work), so of course people will find fault in it.
It’s hard to fit you into one category as you’re a writer, comedian and also an RJ. What do you relate to and enjoy doing the most?
I think the thing that puts all of these together is the opportunity to tell stories, have conversations and make connections with others and getting to make people laugh. Nothing for me beats knowing, or even seeing, that I have made someone laugh or felt heard.
You’re an active member of Auratnaak. When did you feel that you were funny enough to make a legitimate go at comedy?
Probably not until I did Auratnaak! I think being funny is something I have always taken pride in, I come from a family where jokes, barbs, banter is the norm and I took great pleasure in being the kid who could crack the grown-ups up but it was not until I did Auratnaak that I grasped that I had an opportunity at all in life, let alone the ability, to write comedy for myself or with others.
The world is going digital, particularly with the global pandemic and lockdowns; people started working from home, many businesses moved online etc. Do you think that now even more than ever the future is online?
Oh for sure, definitely in the sense that online is becoming increasingly more efficient and seems to solve every niche issue one may have, it’s a powerful tool for communication and connection. But due to the pandemic I am certain there will be a resurgence of the real life and the tangible, maybe not in terms of business as online is the more fiscally smart way to go, but in least in terms of connection and staring at one another face to face and making eye contact.
We’re constantly being told about the detrimental effect that social media has on our mental and physical health? Do you ever switch off or take a break? How do you keep a check on your emotional well being?
Whenever I can take a break I absolutely do. This year I took a 15-day hiatus from work and barely looked at my phone or laptop the entire time. Thankfully I do not get the blues from social media but being in media and particularly news means constantly facing the horrors of the world. Being a women and minority rights activist means being slammed with hate on the internet and being knee deep in a lot of the ugly that surrounds the things I care to fight, so breaks are needed just to get away from that for a bit. I have learned over time how to deal with the internet/social media in ways that keep me from losing my mind – curating what I see helps, not following people or things that are upsetting, eating gluten helps.
On a related note, we’ve seen that negativity on the internet, or ‘trolling’ can have a real impact on people. How do you deal with trolls and what advice can you give to the rest of us who have to deal with them occasionally?
I fight them! I am kidding, partially, but sometimes I do take them on – it’s not the most recommended course of action but if I can think of something funny or I am heated enough then I lower myself to the occasion. But for the most part my advice to someone would be the corny adage of following your gut or instinct but know that no one on the internet, no stranger who is being horrible for the sake of it, is worth your energy – slap that block button and report them if abusive and keep it moving. I hate that the internet can be such a cesspool of poison but it’s good to remember the people spewing their garbage are not worth it, it may still hurt coming from a troll account, but in the end they do not matter. You do.
Who would you pick as your favourite/top three influencers/content creators?
Content creators like stylists Mehek Saeed and Maryam Raja have been killing it with styling videos – they are creative, well edited and educational, illustrators Digink and The Daft Draft make hilarious social commentary through their work, and designer Hamza Asghar Bokhari, I love his style.
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PHOTOGRAPHY: SALMAN MUNIR OF QAMAR ANWAR