Computers were the innovation of the mid-1900s.The world wide web came around in the 1990s.Social media has been undoubtedly the revolution of this decade.It has become an indispensable part of our lives.Networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Quora have gradually encroached our private spaces.
The use of social media, rather the misuse of the platform has become a topic of debate.In her book,”I am a Troll,” Swati Chaturvedi, an Indian journalist has presented evidence of the grave threat twitter poses to the social fabric of our time.Her investigative journalism provides more than a sneak peeks into the tactics used by political parties (read BJP) to propagate their malicious propaganda.The trolling culture culminating in just 140 characters is used to provide fodder for verbal abuse against those who voice their “intolerance” against the government.
Another way to look at the damage caused by the social networks is the concept of fake news.These are carried by handlers to kindle conflicts that have the possibility of turning into riots.Recent examples can be taken from Facebook and Twitter where users have shared images or videos with audio of cow slaughter.These incidents are alleged to have occurred in India.It is later found that these videos are of Pakistan or Bangladesh.Sadly, by then, groups more often than not have issued their communal threats.The stage has been set.
The third impediment of social media is the selfie culture.A week ago, two teenagers were crushed by a train while trying to capture their perfect moment.Their friends, who were engrossed in their own camera a few meters away could not save them.This is not a one-off, several similar incidents are reported every other day.Fuelling the fire to teenagers’ lives is the constant distractions caused by notifications.Peer pressure has increased manifolds regarding the quantum of likes and comments.21st century just got worse for the kids.
Even though social media has many disadvantages for the society as a whole, it also comes as a savior to many.One, it has led to the rise in the pitch of the oppressed.Recent examples include the Dalit movement flagged off as a reaction of flogging of four Dalits in Gujarat.Another example can be cited from the Marathas’ movement in Maharashtra.If these do not serve as an anecdote, The Arab Spring certainly makes one realize the power of the media at our disposal.
Second, for the corporates, social media has opened up a source of revenue, resulting from advertising.Instagram features bodybuilders posing with fitness products.Users see promoted advertisements in their feeds. Virender Sehwag, the country’s former cricketer, advertises for paytm in his tweets.Social media had come to corporates as a drastic help when their other sources of online advertising were not as lucrative.
Third, social media has made it possible for the common man to communicate with the political leaders.Indian leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Foreign affairs minister, and Suresh Prabhu, Railways Minister are revered for their instant problem-solving.Twitter has given those in distress a direct emergency helpline to the highest authorities.
After looking at both the roads, it may be fair to say that although social media may be beneficial or disastrous depending upon intentions of certain people, a mechanism can be made to make people accountable.As of now, India has very lenient laws governing the stuff that goes on over the web.We do not have enough IT cells to book the offenders, nor do we have the required infrastructure to segregate the truth from the lies.The government can work towards these, and the people can become more responsible.That may lead to the social media being categorized as a boon.Till then, it will remain in the gray areas of our vision.