Should it be used for socialising, sharing jokes, movie songs and trailers, posting pictures of self and family and off course poking at each other? Can we use it for mobilizing communities, for spreading the message, for giving a platform to our ideas and ideologies?
Yes. The answer is a resounding yes as social media has become an effective tool for all the above and an important part of our lives. That has also created another effective use of it for the corporate- targeted low cost advertising .
But there is one big question, where the answer can only be a resounding ‘No’.
Can a meaningful debate really happen on social media? No or perhaps not in the charged environment of the world today.
Trump- Cruz-Rubio. Scalia-Obama-Republicans. Bernie Sanders-Hillary. Apple-Fed.
JNU-Nationalism-Freedom of speech. Smriti Irani-Mayawati. Jat-Reservation-Violence.
On every issue, there are posts and counter posts and thousands of shares on social media. On every issue, there are debates and discussions and invariably the discussion thread is many times longer than the main post itself.
Discussions on social media, have become a tool for people to showcase their intelligence and to prove that they have something to say. Some use it to prove that they are the know-all and to seek reverence, some just because they wish to participate, some even to prove (and at times disprove) their language skills.
But are these discussions meaningful? Do they really open the minds to new ideas? Are people really receptive to change or a differing ideology? No. Not really.
If we reflect on almost all of these discussions, rarely can we see people changing their thoughts and in fact a pattern continues, post after post. A liberal will remain liberal while a conservative would continue to support conservative agenda. In all discussions, people who would support Aamir Khan, JNU, Kanhaiya, Sanders, Obama, secularism, etc. would roughly remain the same while the ones opposing or sprouting divergent views would also be same.
Amongst our family and friends, we do not even need to read the posts or comments to know what it would be about, as over a period of time we can easily make out who would be saying what. And the pattern continues, over posts, over comments, month after month, year after year.
Also God forbid, if the debate which follows the post is long. After a few comments, intimidation and pure abuse from either party will start at each other. They would try and convince each other with their ideology and when reason fails, the animal will take over.
Many of the debates are so abusive and violent that we cannot even show them to our family. In ancient times, there used to be a topic and then the ‘Shastrartha’ or a constructive discussion on the same used to take place amongst the learned and people would watch and learn. Not anymore, the audience is a participant and discussion is a primitive battle.
It greatly helps that the other person is not sitting in front of you and you can fight a boxing match without getting physically hurt. So we use the keys as punches and hit back at each other till we are totally battered and bruised. Mentally.
Nothing really happens in these debates other than this. We are all tone deaf and hear only those messages which speak to our sensibilities and respond and battle in a similar pattern.
And then we say that we are educated and learned!
It was better if we were children again. When in our innocent lives, every day was a day of learning and we were receptive to new ideas and thoughts. Our minds were slates where the old tired message could be easily erased and a newer one take shape. When progress meant being able to accept change.
Osho is right. The journey of man is a journey from infinity to become a very small finite element. From being a child who is all receptive to becoming an old, egoistic, know-all, closed, windowless mind who cannot allow even a slight breeze to blow in. The society, especially the educated, is turning violent and social media seems to be aiding in that today.
If we wish to still maintain our sensibilities, we should focus on the benefits that we derive from social media, post our views and spread the message but it is time, we debate less and definitely not use it as a place of battle. In fact for our own mental health and safety, let’s run away when it starts turning abusive.
Do you wish to have your sanity or do you still wish to continue with your old path on social media? The choice is yours.
As for me, its’ time I go back to social media but only for reading or sharing posts, for family, friends, Bollywood, jokes and off course Sunny Leone, not necessarily in that order!
Posted in Times of India on 25th February 2016. Link below-