Power of social media

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and a host of others are meant to connect people along certain shared interests, political ideas and philosophies. Some use these sites to post personal information including high points and eventful moments of their lives. Others use these sites to share their politics and also get enlightened by others who are more deeply acquainted with certain issues. Since the old “adda” spaces where intellectual sparring used to happen over cups of tea, are no longer available due to paucity of time and space, social networking sites provide that breathing space. Every thinking person, particularly the youth are bubbling with ideas that they want to bounce them against those of others so that the discourse is enriched. These sites are an excellent platform for virtual debates.

Unfortunately there are some with venomous intent who use social network sites to promote hatred and disharmony. In a country as fragile as India is in terms of communal and religious sensitivities anything that hurts the sentiments of any group or individual has the propensity to cause a flare-up. What is worse is that people with anti-national proclivities are using this space to brainwash impressionable young minds. The problem with social network sites is that anything posted on the site can go viral and reach the far ends of the earth. The repercussions of a post in Shillong might not necessarily be felt here but it could create a backlash elsewhere, where the victim/s could be innocent of the debate on virtual spaces.

Those who post such hate mails don’t think too far or are unconcerned with the dangerous consequences of their actions. They are only preoccupied with the immediate. But we live today in a shrinking world where mobility has never been as smooth and seamless as it has ever been in the past. We are no longer exclusive communities living in a cocoon. The much quoted Biblical exhortation, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” is as applicable today as it was many centuries ago. If someone in Meghalaya spreads venom over Facebook or other sites, there are cranks out there who would take revenge on Meghalayans living elsewhere. This is a wired world. Intellectuals may argue that the Right to Freedom of Expression also constitute the right to use social networking sites. But can an unedited piece of hate speech that could cause a communal conflagration be considered freedom of speech? This issue requires serious introspection.