Social media has been a liberating factor for all those who have never got the opportunity by the caste supremacists in India in the name of merit but it is also a fact that the same Brahmanical elite control it in India. The latest issues related to Facebook and WhatsApp are not really new but known to many of us who have been here since the beginning. I am also a frequent user of twitter and know it well that there are ‘filers’ everywhere and these filters are very cleverly being used. So, the question is not that you are getting likes or not likes but the fact is that which of your post should reach larger people and which should not, is actually decided by the ‘technology’.
Facebook gives us space but control our access and reach but twitter is more notorious on this. It has allowed the paid army of the trolls to abuse, intimidate and character assassin individuals who differ with the ‘power’. Twitter actually ‘decide’ what should be the ‘prime time’ discussion in the evening. These days, political parties as well as business groups have ‘troll armies’ to ‘trend’ an issue so that it become ‘news’
The problem in today’s world is that ‘reach’ and ‘likes’ decide whether an item is ‘authentic’ or worth readable. And hence the fight today is not to about ‘correct’ or ‘authentic’ or credible pieces but those with bigger likes and shares. Many times, likes and shares are done without evening reading. Don’t we know how the ‘followers’ are included? With the advent of social media, many have got lucrative jobs just to keep their political masters happy. False narratives are built and pushed through WhatsApp and our youngsters as well as veterans use them as ‘knowledge’. I can say, that a big number of people never had reading habits in this country and one could only hope that they go for that but now things have become much more dangerous. You can’t even speak to a person from a point of view of ‘telling’ him as before you tell anything, you will come to know the ‘knowledge’ of the persons gained through WhatsApp forwarded every day.
Now a politician tweet one-liner to his followers and that’s it. You don’t discuss whether that tweet is crap or bogus but we discuss, how many followers and if we speak against that then we are wrong. Problem does not end that the politician has one line tweet but thing is that every channel followed by the print and online portals will repeat that tweets thousands of time. We have been reduced to getting one information from so many sources.
I have been told to write smaller pieces or one-liner as they get ‘large’ number of likes or comments. My points have been the same. Can you really speak about an issue in a one-liner and will that ever raise a serious discussion? So, my question is if we want to enjoy these playing games with jumlas then fine but if we wish to engage in fruitful discussions which make us feel having gained something after the discussion, then we must engage in such discussions and not in jumlas. I found even good meaning and serious people become victim of it. The aim of these platforms is not to raise constructive discussion which many of us are still trying to do, but to bombard you with disinformation as these platforms have become the easiest tool to spread political propaganda. Obviously, a propagandist government will not be keen that people learn and gain knowledge through these platforms.
Social media could have been liberating force but I realised from Arab Spring that the solution that it provides is much worse than the problem. Each country where you found fight against ‘authoritarianism’ turned into anarchy and chaos. India was a working democracy. None say that we were perfect but what is happening is not to strengthen the ‘imperfect’ democracy and I am willing to enjoy that, but to empower the already powerful authoritarian forces ruling us.
Therefore, social media has become a tool to control us and fetch us with political propaganda, lies and deceits As I said, political dissent, diverse views are targeted and filtered. So, it gives us the feeling that we are democratic and express our voices but the fact is that it cleverly reduced you to nothing. Moreover, if somebody abuse and threaten you on these platforms from a political party you oppose, particularly if that happens to be the ruling party, then it is also ‘protected’ under ‘freedom of expression’. But it is true about social media and also about the manustream media which has many ‘legends’ who openly threaten and intimidate political opponents.
So, there is a connection between all of them and they converge at one place. The freedom of expression is not meant for all but who can abuse the opponents. Can you imagine any such freedom under international laws which our ‘media’ uses to vilify the opposition parties and dissenting voices? In the United States, Tweeter censored President Trump’s tweet. Social media in Europe and America is careful and will not allow hatred to go but then here they can’t imagine doing business with ‘ease’ if they target the ruling party.
And for the ruling party, everything has to be responded from the past mistakes. they should know that even Indira Gandhi was punished for her emergency and might empires be brought down by a united people. Ye public hai sab jaanati hai. Social media in our societies have an important role to play and we can use them in a much better way which can be constructive and build up our relationship with each other but once we become part of a propaganda machinery, it will take no time even to destroy our individual relationship with each other. The choice is yours as to how you want to use it? Expecting it to work for our ‘welfare’ while ignoring its own business interest will be like asking to expect losses from a businessman. Let us build our communities and alliances, share our ideas and thoughts and even when we know that our reach will be limited, let us carry forward our work to strengthen our ideas and solidarity.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
August 18th, 2020