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Social responsibility in an era of Social Media

Times have changed. We want to eat fast, travel fast, communicate fast, message fast and receive replies faster. In our bid to do everything faster, we have no time to verify the information we receive and spread. Apart from the pace at which information is passed, what worries me more is how gullible we are when it comes to believing anything that’s posted on social media. The other day my Mom got into an argument with me; saying that UNESCO “has just” declared “Idli and Sambar” as the best “breakfast item in the world”, her proof was “it is on fb, it is true.” I lost the argument; I was before my mom and the very breakfast I was about to eat.
This is not just the story of a few of us, a majority of Indians are the unsuspecting victims of fake news, lies and propaganda. We have very less or no time to think about the messages we receive, but have all the time in the world to forward them with the message “forward in all groups.”
On an average; every message has the potential to reach lakhs and even crores in our country and when such messages are forwarded without any sense of responsibility, they have the potential to incite riots and take the lives of thousands. A well educated executive at an MNC once forwarded an image of a group of people wearing pathani dress posing with a cow, below the image was written: “These people will slaughter this cow soon, spread this message in all groups so that they get caught” since I was a part of the group I asked him: ‘which part of India is this from?’ and ‘how are you so sure that they will slaughter it?’ He simply replied ‘forwarded as received.’ A moment of logical deduction could easily prove that the image was probably from Afghanistan, because of their facial features, skin colour, colour of their eyes and the clothes and the skull caps worn by them. When I questioned about these things, the person didn’t even bother to reply…..but the image was seen by almost everyone in the group and God alone knows how many groups the image was forwarded to….
These messages, images, GIFs and videos are not just random acts by people who consider themselves online messiahs, dying to save the world through their instant messaging. These messages often have their roots in organized social media teams that work day and night in creating fake messages and have an equally competent team to spread them on social media.
The arrest of Tarun Sengupta, Secretary of BJP’s IT Cell by the West Bengal CID is just the tip of the ice berg. These IT cells work meticulously to not just create a positive image for their party leaders and their policies but they even work towards spreading communally sensitive messages that threaten communal harmony for quick political gains. Nupur Sharma, BJP Spokesperson in Delhi was booked by the Kolkata Police for sharing on social media a photo of the 2002 Gujarat riots and claiming it to be an image captured during the communal violence at West Bengal’s Basirhat.
In a world of photoshop and video editing, it is our duty to think over the messages we receive and so enthusiastically forward. Our videos, messages and posts have the potential to either make our society or break it. Great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Bhagat Singh, Dr. Ambedkar and others; did not lay down their lives, for us to take up arms against each other on the provocation of power hungry political vultures.

~Anthony Mathew Jacob