Social media is becoming a strange space these days. Cleavage, muscle, and public display, are more of norms than exception. Item number induced body movements by teenagers, housewives and elderly, to the tunes of Kancha Badam and Puspa holds sway in TikTok clone Facebook ‘Reels’ and videos. The phenomenon is not a very hard nut to crack if I may use a ‘Badam’ metaphor.
The comment, the cowboy philosopher, stage, and movie star of Hollywood, Will Rogers, made so many moons ago, that, ‘Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously, and the politicians, as a joke’, is so apt for our social media era, that it is no longer funny.
Since the war in Ukraine has erupted, everyone is posting comments on social media on the war and voting patterns in the United Nations, or behaviour of the diplomats of various countries. Not only on Facebook, but through Twitter, Insta and LinkedIn. Of course, war is obnoxious, and expressing opinions are individuals’ fundamental rights, and we should exercise it. Supporting people of Ukraine during the distress is laudable. But providing expert comments and running commentaries on intricate foreign policy and international diplomacy? We need to be cautious in our behaviour. Only because social media allows unbridled access to expressing any unfiltered opinion is not really a place for anarchy. We are becoming slaves to the social media.
It is therefore no surprise that apps have become one of the largest consumer ecosystems on the planet, with the global app economy touching nearly USD 6 trillion currently. From strategically finding love, to virtual tours, to live broadcast of events and publishing dance videos, to helping search for extra-terrestrial life and GuruJi’s sermon—there is literally an app for almost anything these days. Students have stopped visiting libraries to study, instead they instantaneously copy from Google search. Communications executives no longer write original press releases but just copy and paste.
Social media has shockingly exposed our frivolous herd-mentality of lack of interest in common courtesy in gathering knowledge and original thinking, and exposed our happy ride on plagiarism by copying from others without citation. We failed to understand that the shrewd and calculative algorithm driven social media wants us to adopt such behaviour. For example, everybody, in their collective consciousness in our country, suddenly discovered an exact quote of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, the deceased Palestinian poet, hitherto hardly used by Indian glitterati. From a Bengali communist party Politburo member to a retired South Indian finance ministry advisor, to a cartoonist-turned-advertising-executive from India’s financial capital to a Delhi socialite, all posted–The War Will End, to support Ukraine. They possibly did not research that in the Middle-East this poem was a symbol of anti-Israel and anti-US statements because the central theme in Darwish’s poetry has always been the concept of loss of his own homeland–Palestine – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, specifically. Some would say that this is an anti-war statement. Of course, it is. There are other anti-war poems and statements as well. Post them. Why copy?
This inane mass copying and no-application of mind, along with the sense of being a celebrity just because one could achieve a million click by offering a peek-a-boo of ones dance movements and what-not, is the result that the Instagram has filled-up with adolescents with eating disorders and suicidal ideations. Algorithmically elected, engagement-optimized push notifications, suggestions, tips, and clever tricks from the so-called hottest mindless influencers pop-up unbidden and inescapable, demanding attention on your screen. That is why social media is becoming low brow.
With the lack of real-life punishment for boorish behaviours displayed by a section of its users through online posting of fake news, targeted harassment or cyberbullying, and doxing or identity theft, social media space is increasingly becoming dangerous. One should have serious concerns about each of these behaviours during every online interaction.
As reported in a recent social psychology study, what shape the social media space in its endeavour to monetize will eventually take is anybody’s guess, but the current concerns related to the use of today’s social media space needs to be looked at seriously by the communications experts.
The study said that within the social media space, people are behaving more selfishly, which is impacting their real-life social behaviour. Secondly, the rapid rate of online advancement and implementation of new technology has confused less tech-savvy members of most countries as a result, making them more susceptible to malicious digital, financial, and reputational manipulations. Thirdly, as most of the authorities are ineffective in regulating these social media platforms, fake news, trolls, and online scams continue to run amok in the digital space. Last but not the least, the producers and distributors of pornographic material are having a free run with unhindered access through digital space and mobile tech to gullible minds.
My only solace is that we have always found solutions to protect our society and our habitat by getting our collective acts together. I hope, we, as responsible communicators, will display similar maturity on the growth of social media too.
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