By: Vidhi Bhardwaj & Rabjot Singh
Excess of everything is bad’. There was a time when people needed a form of technology that could send or receive any information, tangible/intangible and would make things easier and better and that is why, before the 1960s; ARPANET invented/founded the interNET NETWORK. Following this, Social Media platforms were set up on the wave of Internet Connection. Social Media today provides multiple spaces for people to express their opinions. Freedom of speech and expression has a new space of exercise. The topic of ‘Social Media’ has always been a point for debate, especially when two distinct generations present their views respectively. However, unchecked access has fueled this aggressive debate around the use of social media and its role in the creation of a toxic environment
Social Media for New Generation
For the current generation, Social Media works less as a need and more of a necessity as their lives are dependent on such online platforms, even though it came into existence to change the human perception of ‘impossible’ to cover miles in just a few seconds through online platforms. Social Media is an online technology platform that indulges society to make, create and share their thoughts, feelings, knowledge and knacks with others via networking. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are some major social media platforms that influence a youth’s lives, thoughts and socialisation. These platforms have a great impact on youth’s mental health in both positive and negative way and on relationships with social and personal peers. On one hand, this networking is making relationships stronger with people living miles away and sending happiness all over the world in just a few seconds and on the other hand, someone is also losing bonds with their close ones by getting neglected and ignored. Hence, the same invention is responsible for bringing people closer and creating a distance.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are news feed platforms and people can surf, share and post on them and create stories and fleets with others. Platforms like WhatsApp help people to post and share their contents across the world through linked/contactable chats/statuses and snaps on Snapchat. YouTube is one of the largest platforms where people can display their talent to the world by creating their channels and a large number is able to monetise it by promoting their skill full videos and gaining likes, views, comments and subscribers.
Here is the impact and current meaning of socialisation as it lacks interaction because most users are stuck in their echo chambers, only seeing content that confirms their bias. Nonetheless, there are some major areas of the social media debate which need to be discussed in detail:
Social Media and Advocacy:
A characteristic feature of the millennial generation is the ability to mobilize through social media platforms be it a small gesture like changing display pictures to shed light on issues or influencers and pages organizing and coordinating student protests through various sources. People are free to speak up on issues, discuss facts, post their opinions and call out guilty parties on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook demanding action. Through retweets and hashtags, society mobilizes without even having to physically meet. The flipside of this is often called out as ‘Armchair Activism’. Critics believe that this generation has become used to hiding behind their screens and forming uninformed opinions, without having any concrete ideas for the transformation of the society and source of real change. However, the probe against the ‘Boys Locker Room’, recent bail of peaceful protest Safoora Zargar and banning of skin whitening products in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, Me Too movement and many others have proven that social media activism can in fact yield outputs.
Role of Influencers:
Most social media applications host young and impressionable users. While addressing this demographic, influencers and celebrities must remember their words and actions carry weight. The narrative of an ‘ideal’, be it of a body type, a vacation or even a career is unknowingly being promoted which can be derogatory for the mental health of those who fail to live up to unrealistic societal standards which are often false. At the same time, there are pages that are a source of change and spread positive messages through continuously shattering stereotypes by displaying content that is raw and original. Nonetheless, social media has proved to be a safe space for self-expression for young people, giving them a chance to tell their story and connect with people with similar stories to tell.
Misinformation and Defamation:
The pandemic has magnified the issue of fake news and chain messages on WhatsApp and Facebook which spread unscientific and incorrect information Jokingly hailed as the ‘WhatsApp University’, the issue is often addressed by the Government to control the spread of misinformation. However, more than often, social media can act as a source of news that mainstream media fails to cover for various socio-political reasons. Information spreads at a fast pace which becomes a major drawback as people often forget the norm of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and go on to bully and troll parties involved. The recent storm of rage that followed the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, is proof of how people choose to believe and act based on unverified facts, surrounding something as big as the cause of someone’s death.
There will always be two sides to a debate. It is up to every individual, how they navigate the space that social media provides them with. We must not believe everything we come across in life but question it, learn about it and then use it as we see fit. Tata trusts say that, “Misinformation is dangerous, take care before you Share” and the society and environment of the world should get stuck to this as this is the only way to get rid of the trap of fake facts and invalid comments/thoughts. “Will I use this platform to spread positivity and awareness? Will I give in to the toxicity and use my access to disrespect alternate perspectives or will I contribute to make it a safe space for everyone?”, these are questions we must introspect on and answer by ourselves.
In lieu of World Social Media Day, which is celebrated on June 30 every year, the motive of this article is to spread knowledge and cognizance about social media in an effective and subtle manner. In the end, the one thought that everyone should instil in their subconscious is that,