It’s been three months since Vappichi quit his alumni groups on WhatsApp. It brought a pause to his constant scribbling on the mobile screen, drew down the up-hill eyebrows and switched back his pursed lips to normality.
It all began with the rising tide of extremism infesting his childhood friends and companions of youth—turning out the Alumni groups on social media platforms into a breeding ground for hate. Worried and saddened over this change, like everyone else, my father, too, began to battle virtually for the losing sanity through counter-arguments and fact checks. Though some appreciated his efforts, matters became bad to worse—as many began to further spill hate by labeling and calling out each other’s identities, heedless of a life spent together.
My father was in a dilemma of whether to continue rebutting or to quit and save the straining relationships. Yet, things took an unexpected turn following the abrogation of Article 370. His mobile screen was filled with the pictures of Kashmiri women sent and resent via WhatsApp groups, mockingly celebrating that people can now buy land in Kashmir and can marry these women too. This inhumane virtual act deeply provoked him. Finally, he quit.
Being in a world that is getting polarized with the rise of extremism in all directions, virtual friend circles have turned into circles of dissension and hatred. The way political and social opinions have bludgeoned our lives is quite frightening—as it has drastically changed the behavior of people around us, near and dear.
Social media, with its algorithms, has been directly or indirectly, a major catalyst behind this polarization—as it creates a filter bubble, where one is free to filter the dissenting voices and follow those with opinions similar to their own. Thus, it has created a world of its own for each person, to brood on what they have chosen for themselves: love or hate. On the other hand, media sensationalism successfully continues to spread fear and insecurity to the extent that it further triggers racial and religious divisions.
Moreover, the surge of sympathy for one’s ‘own’ people is leading many around us towards inhumane acts against the other. This selective sympathy is perilous as it creates much pain for their ‘own’ people, and yet, turns them deliberately impassive over the suffering of the ‘other’ who don’t belong to the identity they choose for themselves. This self-conceived division between ‘we’ and ‘them’, ‘us’ and the ‘other’ becomes utmost vicious when the ‘other’ is the person who sits next to us in the bus, who walks on the same streets we walk, who eats at the same restaurants we eat.
Today, Vappichi continues with his decision and remains aloof from virtual fights. And thus, recently, things quite contrary began to happen. Those same childhood friends have begun to call in and ask, “how are you doing man?” And at times, one among them would trigger an individual friendly chat into a debate, yet surprisingly, it ends all of a sudden with: “I like you so much man, let’s stop this now!” It’s all that it takes to end such virtual wars that thousands are fighting right now, as your eyes capture these words and wire into your brain.
It’s as simple as that.
In the end, it is about choosing ‘humanity’ as a whetstone to every single ideology we hold on to, and every single philosophy we wish to practice. What we need is the courage to choose ‘Humanity first’ when confronted with the ideologies of retaliation and revenge. The persistence to respect and educate each other, rather than trolling and labeling them—the courage to speak and seek justice even when our ‘own’ people commit injustice.
And when the voice of dissent and efforts to shake off the wide-spreading drowsiness cost our own mental health and relationships, it is okay to pause and step back, to re-evaluate our approaches in winning the hearts of our loved ones sinking in exclusive fundamental doctrines.
Thus, at a time, when what we read and share is having a great influence on the wider society, let’s choose what must be made viral, love or hate. Let love be viral!