The youth of India currently is more politically opinionated than ever. They actively take part in the political discourse, fight for the rights of the inconsolable and are more powerful than ever. The problem with this is that most of them rely on half-baked truths or completely fabricated news, making them the largest community of young people who might be visually illiterate.
The arrival of technology in our lives has increasingly made the world look smaller and created a void between our reality and theirs, yours and mine. The information fed to us in the form of images may not necessarily be the absolute truth, but it is undoubtedly the truth you and I want to see. The ability to critically analyze, understand and process the images we come across every day is called Visual Literacy. With each passing day, the low visual literacy rate in the country is affecting our everyday life and has changed it forever.
The current generation, more technologically sound than its predecessor, is the first one which is witnessing their parents and guardians tackle with the most lethal weapon of our times: the internet. The political parties, especially the current regime, has benefited a lot from the technologically handicapped netizens by spreading a tremendous amount of fake news.
Fake news isn’t a thing of past anymore. It has been around for a long time but the extent to which it has been deployed into our cellphones—which coincidentally we carry along like our heart—is scary.
The documentary on Netflix, “The Great Hack” further explains how fake news and propaganda flipped the results in the U.S. elections, Trinidad and Tobacco elections and even the Brexit campaign. The situation isn’t any different in India.
Take the example of the JNU sedition case, which is now being struck down the Delhi Council; the demonetization fiasco about the notes having a chip which turned out to be the measure of the intellect of Television journalists, and the constant hue and cry about Hindi being the National language of India. In each of these examples, the popular sentiment has been wronged by facts, which shows that on the whole, India is a visually illiterate country. The peddling of fake stories has even led to the killings of many in rural India. It will be naïve of me to say that fake news hasn’t influenced the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.
Ironically, split between political ideologies, the youth of today are both the prey and the predator to fake news. Some don’t feel the need to dig up the truth, some spread it to prove their point, some consume it to strengthen their bias, and some are ignorant about facts like they are about their lives.
The youth has been marginalized by the constant false claim of them being the powerful but without power, educated but without knowledge, influencers but without understanding the effects and activists but without a cause. The youth, who is determined more than ever, to contribute to the nation is merely told to sign up at political parties’ website or sign a petition on change.org. The youth, like most of the population, is targeted only during the election but not during policymaking. They are used to campaign during the elections but are sidelined during their own crisis. The youth which should have been more conscious about the information warfare has unfortunately been the victim.
The youth can also be the saviour here by challenging the status quo and its propaganda. Any visual content appearing on your phone, with a little background check, can be identified as to whether it is genuine or yet another fake piece of information. The polarization of caste, religion and political ideology has induced the young blood, too, but unlike its earlier generation, it has enough time to undo the damage and rectify itself.
It also has an opportunity to influence the older minds of the homes who are the most unaffected. The older minds have built up their politics and their ideology for years, and it is not easy to dismantle it. The fake news since the last six years has strengthened it to the extent that it is not only hard to understand but also to counter. However, the youth which aims to change the world on Instagram can start with their homes.
The mobile sales have increased and so has the internet usage. An average youngster spends at least of four hours on his mobile, which if used truly as a weapon to better the nation, the information warfare against fake news and its peddlers can be resisted or at least their impact on elections can be minimized. Like they used to say, the country’s future is in the hands of the youth. Right now, it literally is!