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The other day I was added in a WhatsApp group by one of my friends. It was a group created for a get-together of some of our school friends. We all were excited for the get-together; many of my friends would be there. There was already all the planning for the party, food, music arrangements and what not — thanks to social media, we were connected from all over different places. Finally the day for the get-together arrived. We were all present according to the plan. After initial enjoyment and some greetings, all forgot each other and became busy in their phones, scrolling feeds, profiles and stories — thanks to social media, we were so disconnected even being so near in the same place.
Socialization and social media seem similar in their connotations. Socialization is the process to be socialized or having the quality to be accepted in society. In this way social media gives the utmost platform to interact with different people, scroll through their daily activities, to venture into a new world of different possibilities etc. Social media also provides us the opportunity to be informed and updated, giving us the opportunity to tinker with the world at our finger tips. In a way, social media should have provided us the utmost opportunity to be the most socialized animal in the world.
Alas! This is not what social media is going to do. It is true that through social media people can have access to a whole new world of society and different possibilities, but through this process we are losing the sight of our very own world that we live in, our surroundings, our neighbourhood, our family as well as friends. We are so busy in the use of social media that this does not allow us to have a look at what is going on in real in our lives. We are updated about what is happening to a stranger’s life, but we have no clue how our parents are struggling to earn to get us fed, to get us admitted in a good educational institution, to give us the monthly rent and fees etc. Therefore the real question emerges: is social media really making us social?
The answer is partly yes and partly no. The reasons are within us only. There is no denial that social media is a reality today, not many people can live without access to it, from young ones to elderly people. Everyone likes peeping into it or scrolling through it. It is true that social media gives us access to a whole different world of different possibilities, keeps us updated about the daily world, gives us the platform to telecast our art, talent and creativity. Therefore this is totally up to us how we are using social media. There are various instances in recent times how social media has helped people in some positive directions. It is through social media only we saw several overnight sensations. Who can forget the case of Ranu Mandal singing on the railway platform? It was only through the power of social media she got overnight fame, which led her to newer possibilities in her life. There are many other instances of this nature.
However, the real picture is that the negative impacts of social media are many. First of all it makes us alienated from the rest of our society, our family, our friends etc. We are so busy in social media that we often forget about the real world that we are living in. We show compassion towards misdeeds and wrongs on social media, but when the same happen in front our eyes, we just show compassion by clicking a picture of them and posting it on social media with some good hashtags. Our compassion has been limited to social media, from the social media. I am reminded of one such incident here. The other day, I was travelling from Guwahati in a night super bus. The bus got into an accident near Jakhlabandha area and we were all trapped inside, with many people getting injured. The door of the bus also got jammed and could not be opened from inside. Many people jumped out of the window and got injured. Several onlookers and passersby gathered there, all busy in capturing pictures but no helping hand! Later on, the nearby forest department office along with the police came to our rescue.
Moreover, there are some other emerging negative trends of social media these days. The impact of circulation of fake news over social media is not unknown to anyone. Leave socialization, the improper use of social media can lead to crimes and violence as well. In the recent past only we have seen several cases of violence, lynching, and assault over circulation of fake news on social media. All start believing in these news and reacting to it, without even giving a second thought to its credibility and reliability. Who can forget the spine chilling incident of the Abhi-Neel lynching case over circulation of fake news about the arrival of child lifters? There are several such cases over the circulation of fake news on social media like the arrival of cow thief, child lifter, smuggler etc. The saddest part here is that there is no proper law till today against lynching and even those who are accused can’t be booked under strict provisions of law due to lack of evidence etc.
There is no denying that social media also gives some credible information nowadays. But there are no proper verification mechanisms to check fake and inflammatory news. This is the reason why many people get into the trap of radicalization over social media. Youths are more prone to such influences, given the vulnerability of their minds, and the presence of them as the majority users of social media. They are therefore the easy targets of this venom. The lack of proper laws and the ineffectiveness of existing laws to check these cyber crimes is another reason why fake news still causes so much mischief among so many people.
The process of socialization starts from home. And it starts from very early age of an individual. Parents have the major role to play here. Earlier, when there was no social media, internet, mobile phones etc, the process of socialization was different. But today cell phones have become an integral part of socialization from an early stage of development. Cell phones can be seen in the hands of crawling babies too. The reason being, babies and children remain silent once they get to see and scroll through the cell phone and social media, according to parents. Yes it is true that due to the vulnerable nature of their brains, children easily get attracted to these gadgets and keep quiet for some time. But can anyone realize the negative impact that it has over the mind and health of a child? From eyes to brains to sleeping disorder etc, many things are affected due to constant focus on the screen. Adults realize this, but children do not. Therefore, the creeping use of cell phones, social media etc in the process of socialization is a sign of the inability of parents to properly socialize their children. More negative impacts will be on the way.
No one can deny the need of cell phones, internet and social media in the present day modern world. These are no more things of luxury but have become very integral part of life. Having said that, the responsibility rests solely upon us how to make good use of these new inventions. Every technological innovation can be a boon or bane for humankind. And none but humans themselves make it so.