The world today is a dangerous place. So, we need to tread softly as we negotiate a landscape riddled with potential minefields. Anything we say, even in jest, can be highlighted on social media and blown completely out of proportion to malign our character.
Take the recent case of the cricketer Ollie Robinson who was being investigated for nine-year-old tweets dating back to when he was a teenager. Within the last few years, people are being ‘cancelled’ (culturally blocked from having a prominent public platform or career) for views, comments or actions seen as offensive. A public backlash follows and the process of accountability and boycotting begins. Is cancel culture an important tool of social justice or a new form of intimidation?
When you see people ‘cancelling’ certain personalities, it’s a way of saying ‘I am not going to pay attention to you in the way I once did. I may have no power, but the power I have is to ignore you.’ Cancel culture can serve as a corrective for the sense of powerlessness many of us may feel. But others will argue that there is no need to post your views and opinions on social media platforms unless you are willing to face the consequences.
So, why is there this compulsion to share everything with strangers? Vanity is not something new. The difference is that now we get an immediate reaction to what we think or comment on. This feeds the ego and encourages us to share feelings and experiences that one would normally only share with just a few friends.
There is nothing wrong about feeling proud of yourself but there is something wrong if you need approval from others to validate your feeling of self-worth. We all have in our midst the ‘oversharer’, a compulsive poster on social media. For such people, it is the perfect time to be alive.
In times of a pandemic, such as the one we are living through now, the use of social media has grown exponentially. This has helped answer queries on how to procure life-saving medicines or an ambulance in times of need. However, sadly, we have also seen the dissemination of misinformation, which jeopardises the fight against the spread of the deadly virus.
An international study covering approximately 23,500 respondents aged 18-40 revealed that this age group was most likely to share scientific content on social media and more than half surveyed were very aware of fake news surrounding COVID-19. However, the challenge lies in encouraging them to counter false news rather than letting it slide.
Posting information on social media
Whether social media networking sites are a boon or a bane depends on how we use them. The important thing is not to reveal unnecessary personal information about yourself.
Use this medium to stay in touch with friends and to keep up with what is happening in your lives. Or you can engage with people who have similar interests and exchange information or tips.
Most of us have family WhatsApp groups where we share news and views but even within these groups, you have the oversharer or the one who is always posting forwards, most of which you have already seen in other groups. Of course, in my family, none of us shies away from being brutally honest with one another.
So, if you share a joke which you think is really funny, you are not surprised to be told it is an old one and has been doing the rounds for ages. What you are implying is that you were one of the first to read this joke or cartoon and you wonder how the other person only got to read it now!
The best quote I read is “Don’t use social media to impress people, use it to impact people.”
Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India