The internet is an interesting space to be in. With thousands of websites, blogs and social media platforms, the internet today is more than just an ‘ocean of knowledge’. Especially since the advent and popularity of social media, the internet has miraculously transitioned from being merely a place to seek knowledge to a place to share knowledge, and opinions. Social media has made the internet accessible to the masses, allowing any person to express their opinion.
This openness and inclusiveness brought about by social media have their positives and negatives. What we, as regular users, see of social media, is completely in contrast to what operates in the background. It’s no more just about the selfies, pictures and videos; nor it is just about staying connected to your friends and family. Social media is now as much about third-party content. What we can’t see is the origin and the motive of the content we are consuming, or what’s being fed to us.
To put it straight, social media can be used to spread hate – hate that comes in multiple forms and shapes. It can be stalking, threats or hate mail, things that have been fairly discussed and debated upon. Then there are other kinds of hate that have largely been ignored.
A person whom I deliberately follow on Facebook (to observe his activities) posts this kind of content.
Social media has become a tool in the hands of haters and extremists to spread hate, arouse people, ignite hatred, and win elections. It is very interesting to note how politics, religion and social media are so closely knit and interconnected.
It absolutely fine for anyone to express their opinions on the internet, on whichever and whatever issues but something needs to be kept in mind, especially when we talk about freedom of expression in the country.
Had it just been about religion, it would have been fine. But what’s even more interesting is how such hate posts intensify each time elections are around. Seemingly, political parties have hit a gold mine in the form of social media. Imagine how conveniently and how fast a political message can be spread on the eve of elections through WhatsApp and Facebook.
The nature of these posts and the vibes that they give are enough to infer that all is not well with social media and something needs to be done. But what can you and I do? What can we as aam (common) netizens do?
Actually, we can do a lot.
All that it takes is to speak out. In the case of the internet, this may mean putting up a status update, a picture, a video, a meme or a comic – whatever. What is important is to put your thoughts out there and counter the other thoughts which spread hate.
It’s easier said than done. It’s not as simple. Typing a note and hitting the post button is easy, but what follows is difficult to survive. Social media is so crowded with haters and extremists that in case you take a stand, you won’t even be able to live through a day in peace. You will be brutally targeted, abused, name-called and bullied. I have seen people who stood up experience this. But I have also seen them being enormously supported and encouraged. There are two sides to it. All that matters is standing up, and speaking out.