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Social media: A great leveller and a dangerous tool that could ruin lives instantly

From Narendra Modi to Amitabh Bachchan to Paulo Coelho to Rajdeep Sardesai - you could let any one of these public figures know what you like and don't like about them.

The world has changed in the last ten years to the point that there is no going back. If the Internet was revolutionary for the previous generation, it is social media for this. I have been one of the early adopters of social media. Being a social recluse, awkward, the introvert person helped me discover how I am not the only one out there who thinks the Internet is her best friend.

As an early adopter of blogging and Twitter universe, I have seen the platform evolve. While it provides a fantastic level-playing field, it could ruin your lives within seconds. Social media, especially Twitter, changed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, took to the platform and talked directly to his audience. The media-hating chief minister of a state who was hated more by the media itself used the platform to his advantage.

From Narendra Modi to Amitabh Bachchan to Paulo Coelho to Rajdeep Sardesai – you could let anyone of these public figures know what you like and don’t like about them. The mainstream media journalists who were not used to two-way communication were shocked to know people did not take their word as gospel truth. The imminent doom of their propaganda made them lose their cool more often than not and everyone who disagreed were ‘trolls’.

That started a new wave of ‘bhakts’ vs ‘liberals’. BJP or Modi supporters were invariable ‘bhakts’ and anyone who did not agree with him were by default ‘liberals’. ‘Liberals’ came in all shapes and sizes. They would talk about lovely things like feminism and have a general dislike for Hindu festivals as the only festival worth celebrating was the one which is known for biryani. Cow-jokes, offering non-left/’liberal’ folks to drink gaumutra (cow urine) is a running joke because #AdoptDontShop is legit only for dogs and cats. Cows are to be devoured.

Read: The psychology of ‘Woke Culture’: How bitter individuals weaponise resentment to perpetuate a cancerous narrative

Speaking of jokes, Twitter also gave birth to ‘standup comics’. A bunch of people who could crack jokes in 140 characters, who were of course ‘liberals’, we now part of the elite clout of feminist woke crowd which talked about mental health issues. We will come to ‘mental health issues’ in a while, but before that, let us talk about the standup comics.

These standup comics gained popularity making jokes on Modi. One fellow thinks he is funny every time he picks on a particular film director and his zombies would laugh at his ‘jokes’. Another gained popularity by being a parody of a popular author whose books have been read by more number of people than those who have heard of these individuals collectively.

The ‘liberal’ brand of such ‘woke’ individuals thought that since they all talk about things like consent and feminism when it comes to them, the consent is a given. They even get ‘protection’ from the same set of people they abuse because for them the bigger picture is important. I have earlier written how the Left protects the sexual predators when the accused is one of their own. Recently, after the Kathua rape case, a JNU student had accused the lawyer, Talib Hussain, of raping her. But she had kept quiet for the ‘bigger cause’.

Coming back, the common thread in all this is social media activism. It gives instant gratification to call out someone’s ‘lies’, to name-call someone because you don’t agree with them. And your clout of ‘liberals’ will back you. At the cost of sounding sexist and harsh on my own gender, they will put their weight behind you especially if you’re a woman, because ‘sisterhood’.

There was a strong element of slander involved. Unverified claims were put out because of the ‘trust women’ phenomenon. At the risk of sounding harsh on own gender, trust, but verify. And that holds true for anyone irrespective of their gender. Because Twitter is not the court of law and your social media justice could just ruin an innocent person’s life. All this because you could. That’s the power of the Internet.

Read: The ‘Performative Wokeness’ of the AIB and what it tells us about modern businesses

Social media gives one the feeling of ‘playing God’. Armed with screenshots, the one who makes the first move is believed. The one on whom allegations are put is left ‘defending’ because people have already made up their minds that you are wrong.

When #MeToo movement took India by storm, everyone believed the women. And why shouldn’t you, after all, why would anyone lie, right? This is not to say the women lied. But we believed them and decided that the men accused were monsters. With newer things emerging a year later, some are wondering if they were too quick to judge while some are staying clear of it because, ‘ah, well, apne ko kya lena dena’ (which is a fantastic attitude to have, IMO – much better for mental health).

What is common in both these are screenshots. ‘Screenshots never lie,’ right? Well, we don’t know anything anymore. We can only speculate and believe the one we want to or rather, the one we dislike less.

As things unfolded last week between Utsav Chakraborty and Mahima Kukreja, I saw a conversation where one woman was empathising with Utsav but cautioned him against this thread because it may make people feel empathetic to ‘monsters like MJ Akbar’. Journalist-turned-politician, like Chakraborty, was accused by multiple women of inappropriate behaviour. Akbar is a BJP Member of Parliament. Hence, for ‘liberals’, he is guilty by default while Chakraborty deserves another chance.

Please note, Akbar is not yet pronounced guilty in any court of law. But on Twitter’s kangaroo court, he is one. Utsav, gets the benefit of the doubt, because he, well, doesn’t really like Modi. Oh, and he had even blamed the ‘right wing‘ for the allegations when they were put up against him last year.

Social media is increasingly being used as a platform to slander. Over and above the fact that people are ready to believe the worst about anyone, it is also easy for people to hide behind the cloak of anonymity and make allegations and disappear. Even celebrities do not shy away from abusing individuals who disagree with them. Recently we saw Bollywood entertainer Swara Bhasker refer to journalist Swati Goel Sharma as ‘jaahil Sanghi’ just because she was doing her job: reporting.

She also used the ‘gau mutra’ jibe, the same one Pulwama terrorist used as he wanted to kill the ones who drink cow urine. Pulwama terrorist exuded Hinduphobia and so do such woke individuals who make the cow urine jibe when they want to ridicule someone who doesn’t agree with them.

Another issue with ‘woke’ individuals on social media is the fact that they hide their insecurities behind the cloak of ‘mental health’. While depression, bipolar disorder are very real illnesses and deserves to be as mainstream as any other illness, most of the ‘woke’ people are seeking ‘therapy’. Anything you tell them affects their mental health and they get ‘triggered’ into a meltdown. You cannot call out their bullshit because then you’d be accused of being a ‘vile’ person who likes to play with other people’s mental health.

Anyone disagreeing with someone who has proclaimed they are having ‘depression’ on Twitter is a bully by default. The ‘depressed’ person will then lead a bunch of his/her/their (another sign someone is a ‘woke’ individual is their putting out the pronoun they identify themselves with) friends who will mock you in solidarity because only the ‘depressed’ can be bullied, and they can never be bullies themselves.

Social media has given the power of discourse back in the hands of the people. The ‘Liberals’ and ‘intellectuals’ who got a free run to peddle their lies and their propaganda have been checked time and again. However, it has also given rise to a sub-culture of bullying, lying, and extracting revenge, that invariably ruins lives. There is no mechanism, as such, that can help curb the menace. There is a thin line between putting checks and balances in place and the entire system descending into just another method to curb free speech, like Congress’ draconian 66A. However, what can be done, at best is to spread awareness and to ensure, that while one may not win popularity contests by siding with the truth, however inconvenient, it just must be done.

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Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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