Today’s generation, especially the millennials, are tech savvy. They (or We) use the internet and social media a lot. Today, when the success or failure in elections are largely influenced by social media, and when social media is storehouse of information, analysis, fake news and trolls, it is the responsibility of the citizens (especially those advocates of democracy, freedom, truth and justice) to do their bit online.
Michael Foucault in his famous book Discipline and Punish speaks of the birth of prisons, especially in the context of France. In the time of kings, torture was the form of punishment. It was also an exhibition of the power of the monarch. During the 18th century, the punishment models underwent change leading to the formation of prisons. Here the punishment is much less painful. The supporters of prison would say they are basically attempting to reform the person. Schools, institutions, armed forced are also considered by Foucault as centers were people are reformed. This way of understanding has its own problems when we have governments which are extreme right or left wing, and they will try to indoctrinate the crowd using the institutions.
As humans have developed, with greater understanding of freedom and democracy, the forms of punishment have undergone a vast change. Prison model is far from desirable. But when I see the present state of many nations after the ascension of right-wing or populist governments in many countries, where lynching and social media trolling have become common realities, I wonder whether we are going back to the old method of torture as punishment along with all the evils of prison model.[The countries like Russia and China which follow left wing ideologies are not in good state either]. Thus we are attempting to take the worst of both the models.
Now what should be a response?
- Start thinking for yourself. Don’t trust excessively, especially those having power. I am not saying that all having power are corrupt, but don’t take the risk of blindly trusting. Equip your children and students with the skill of thinking and that is the best gift for them.
2. When the business of trolling and sprinkling abuses started, the initial response of many was not to react (or in a better way… ignore). I think that phase created enough damages. Now is the time to respond. Using abusive language and attacking without any logic is not the way forward, but responding after knowing the facts. Use your right to report to the social media portals the abusive posts and communities. Respond by Knowing the facts and report when required.
3. Start believing in and using the collective power of social media to counter all sorts of violence and injustice
4. Beware of fake news. Always double check before believing or forwarding any message.
5. Media deeply influences us, and today much of the big media houses are owned by corporates. When profit becomes a major operating guideline, media no longer remains the fourth pillar of democracy. But there are still many media outlets (especially online ones) not owned by corporates, and it is our responsibility to support them. Options like crowdfunding which supports many such media outlets should be looked into. [You should choose and find which ones are neutral and authentic].
6. It is good to be proud of your identity. But, we should start accepting the different identity of the other with less judgement and greater solidarity. Once we start accepting differences, hate mongers would really struggle to create enmities.
I haven’t mentioned about all the actions that also should happen in the real world. Many of the social activists give a living witness there. You could post your comments and suggestions in the comment session…
It is foolish not to use social media today…Use it abundantly... but use it wisely and constructively for a better world…