Social Media – Good, Bad Or Ugly?

Dear Readers,

There’s a good reason the concept of ‘mindfulness’ or conscious and wilful awareness of one’s self and one’s responses, has gained a lot of importance in these times. And there is no place in greater need of the practice of mindfulness by us, than social media platforms, where we tend to give in to our first impulse of ‘forwarding’ information, without giving a second thought about its consequences. Why? Because there aren’t any consequences to suffer when we blindly forward messages and videos, without bothering to verify their authenticity, or worse, without realising that we were made pawns by those with ulterior motives, who wished to uncover only part of the truth, conveniently missing out important details, with the aim of making their content more sensational, in the eternal quest of going ‘viral’.

Even worse is that we don’t seem to care how it impacts those who have been consumed mindlessly as ‘content’ in this trigger-crazy digital universe. Just like its medical connotation, ‘viral’ is turning out to be a disease of the digital medium. Not for a moment can we underestimate or undermine the importance of social media and all the good it has been instrumental in delivering. It has, for the most part, proven to be our champion through the pandemic.

There is no blaming social media – that would be akin to blaming a gun for murder! It’s the hand holding the murder weapon that’s accountable. These days, the murder weapon is social media and the casualty is one’s privacy and reputation. A ‘virtual’ action leads to extremely damning consequences in the real world. The irony is that while everyone has since moved on to partake of the next viral content, the damage inflicted on those who were the subject of the previous content, takes a long, long time to heal.

Sure, one could argue that the intent was good – one wanted to bring awareness to unjust actions, even justice to wrongful acts. All the same, like they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, when we forward content mindlessly, without bothering to do any due diligence about its authenticity or relevance in terms of time-frame or location, and without giving a second thought about how our virtual actions impact real people living in the real world.

We love to blame, we love to judge, we love to punish and we feel vindicated when the wrong are brought to justice. Only, we don’t really bother to take the time or effort to figure out the real story behind a 20-second video clip or image before hitting forward. That would be the decent and responsible thing to do. And once verified, we need to reach the information to the rightful authorities to take appropriate action. But it’s a lot easier being WhatsApp warriors and armchair activists.

Immaterial of whether the content going viral on social media is good, bad or ugly, and immaterial of it’s equally good, bad or ugly consequences, let us not turn a convenient blind eye to our role in it all. And more importantly, let our mindfulness allow our brains to precede our fingers when responding to online content.

Have a good weekend!

– Anahita

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