Ukraine Invasion Has Changed the Way We Watch War Unfold

 As the Russian invasion of Ukraine stretches on into the start of week three, things on the ground remain surprisingly

Ukraine Invasion Has Changed the Way We Watch War Unfold

 As the Russian invasion of Ukraine stretches on into the start of week three, things on the ground remain surprisingly unchanged from the first week. Although Russia, being a major international trade power, was considered a heavy hitter upon the start of the invasion, things on the ground have played out a little differently. The cost in human lives and suffering has been breathtaking, but the Russian army has not scored as many victories or advanced as far as anyone expected – them, least of all. Ukrainian resistance on the ground has proven to be extraordinarily fierce and they’ve stalled advances in several key cities, including the capital of Kyiv.

While the world pushes for a diplomatic solution and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zalenssky signals that he may be willing to abandon Ukraine’s attempts to join NATO, which was Russian president Vladimir Putin’s pretext for the start of the invasion to begin with, talks keep stalling and failing as citizens flee ahead of the slowly advancing Russian troops. 

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding across the rest of Europe as well over 2 million people have fled Ukraine, and the bombing of a children’s hospital this week has brought swift condemnation from the world. And now the world is beginning to uneasily wonder – what is the exit strategy? What does victory look like for Russia, which has continuously failed to secure any meaningful victories? Will Zalenssky’s withdrawal of Ukraine’s NATO application be enough? Will Russia withdraw or occupy?

The world is watching anxiously as Putin’s efforts continue to be frustrated and his known volatile personality is put to the test. Meanwhile, the way we watch the war unfold has changed. Wars used to be seen through the lens of polished media – print, radio, or television portraying exactly what a network wanted the public to see. That has changed with the arrival of the Ukrainian invasion – and it’s changing the way we interact with war from afar as well. 

TikTok Journalism

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Just five years ago, the concept of social media influencers working as journalists would have brought scoffing and laughter. But now, that’s exactly what’s playing out. Whether they’re trained journalists or not, citizens on the ground in Ukraine are the ones showing the world what’s happening. It used to be that whoever held the upper hand was able to control the messaging – limiting communication and reporting as they saw fit.

Now, however, Ukrainian people are getting their own stories out and thwarting the Russian spin machine. In Russia, crackdowns on free press laws have resulted in limited communication flowing into the country, in the hope that the government can convince the people that what they saw happen with their own eyes is not the truth. Putin is relying on police at home to put down protests and hopes that the Russian people will continue to bankroll his invasion – even as Russian Oligarchs begin to distance themselves from the Russian president due to their assets being pinched by international sanctions.

Being cheekily called, “the first TikTok war,” Ukrainians are filming and sharing themselves hiding in bomb shelters, fleeing armed forces, and rationing supplies to survive as the sieges stretch out into weeks. But because it’s TikTok, many of the videos are interspersed with dark humor; the backbone of Generation Z. 

The rise of the influencer journalist means that the flow of facts can get a bit muddy; while someone on the ground in Ukraine might have the most accurate picture of what’s happening in that spot at that moment, they may lack broader context or facts vital to the full picture. However, it also means that external propaganda isn’t succeeding. Russia can say – and has been saying – that Ukrainians are welcoming the invading forces, but thousands of TikTok videos show the lie of it all.

There are of course opportunists using the war to increase their following and they may be hyping up situations to draw views, so those consuming the war through social media must consume with caution. 

The New Way People are Helping

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One unexpected result of the first TikTok war is that it’s connecting people more closely than ever to those on the ground in Ukraine. When you can watch someone duck in a bomb shelter in real time and hear shells rattle the walls, you connect with them in a completely different and more intimate way than you would if watching it on TV through the lens of a journalist interview. 

In response to this new, closer-than-ever connection, people around the world are finding innovative ways to help their new friends in Ukraine. Many people are booking AirBnB rooms around the country of Ukraine, leaving a note telling the lessors that they aren’t planning to use the rooms, just sending some money to help individuals out directly.

Etsy Ukraine has also seen a boost of individuals buying either digital format products or items directly from Ukrainian artists with a note that they don’t have to send the item. This combination of efforts has allowed millions of people to donate anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds – directly to people on the ground.

It’s a novel way to help the war effort but may be limited in immediate effect. While people will surely need income replacement and financial support in the weeks and months following Russia’s end game – whatever that may be – right now, it’s hard to use money to buy goods that simply aren’t available. In many cities besieged by Russian forces, supply lines are cut off – so even if you receive a $1000 booking for your AirBnB, bread and milk may be out of reach.

Experts also warn that the good may be limited to those who already possess means; leaving out the disabled, elderly, and very poor who may not have had internet access or online listings before the invasion. And fraud is of course a major concern – so experts recommend people donate with caution, and consider donating to a traditional charity that is putting supplies on the ground rather than money. The peer-to-peer format is enormously appealing to Generation Z and Millenials, however, so it remains to be seen what the future will be of the direct-to-Ukrainian-people efforts. 

However, one thing that’s become abundantly clear; Ukrainian people are united in solidarity and resolve. They have worked together to make sure their neighbors have enough and picked up weapons to defend their homeland. It’s this spirit and resolve that has forced Russia to slow to a crawl – and frustrated president Putin day by day. 

Travel Plans Disrupted Worldwide as Uncertainty Grows

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As the war drags on and uncertainty spreads, even those far from Europe are beginning to reevaluate their plans. On the ground in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada for instance – gas prices surge at the pump and people are having to shift travel plans and rethink their commutes. Luckily, in all of these countries there is already a recently updated system for remote work – a system many businesses may need to make use of if the war drags on and oil prices continue to rise. 

For those looking to travel farther afield, the war in Ukraine now has more effect on travel plans to Europe than COVID does. MMGY Travel Intelligence conducted a survey that found about half of those who responded are in “wait and see” mode about their plans to visit Europe.

While this seems like an insignificant point held up against all the horror unfolding in Ukraine day by day, its remarkable to note the ripple effect that may be felt even months down the road across all of Europe. From the rising costs of oil and goods, to the concerns of a wheat shortage because Russia supplies so much of Europe’s wheat, to safety concerns – the world can’t seem to catch footing in an ever-dynamic Post-COVID world everyone thought would look far different. 

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