The world is connected 24/7 with constant updates and happenings across the globe through an intricate platform called social media. Anything and everything posted on it brings an uproar of reactions, subtle and strong – either a huge rift and outcry or volumes of sympathy among people. The posts work like a trigger that puts normally calm people into action, who, without giving a proper thought about what they are fighting for, indulge in communal uproars in an attempt to protest against something extremely inconsequential and absurd.
One such event recently took place in West Bengal, India, where a mob in their blind wrath and fury against a Facebook post by an 11 year old student, vandalized public property, burning down shops and stealing away valuables from them. This angry mob even demanded the lynching of the student who was involved in posting a derogatory meme of Prophet Muhammad and Islamic holy site Kaaba. The Muslims of Basirhat took this personally and rampaged in through the city, creating a communal disharmony against the Hindus, as the boy behind this “crime” was a Hindu.
Although social media is seen as a platform for writing and posting one’s thoughts and opinions, things go haywire if even a single post becomes an objectionable one to a certain class of society and easily triggers an unwanted display of agitation against others existing in society. An era of memes and GIFs, an attempt of creating funny and hilarious content, leads the masterminds behind them to actually end up making the lives of people, who share these for fun, a living hell, as they are the ones targeted by police and society for sharing such posts online. In all such cases, social media seems to be more of a curse than boon as instead of being a pathway of knowledge and opinion sharing, it results in creating unwanted tensions against innocent masses.
What can be the solution to it? It is a known fact that social media became an integral part of people’s lives as it gives you the freedom of expressing yourself, real time. It is a platform for voicing your thoughts and views about the happenings across the world or your own lives. A single post on these portals shouldn’t lead to life-threatening consequences for the person who shared it. Indian society and the people comprising it should learn to differentiate between freedom of expression and a deliberate attempt to demean their religion or religious practices.
India being a country of diverse religions and languages, it is extremely important that memes and posts created for fun should never be taken as an insipid jibe targeted against a particular religion and language, thus bringing on mass protestation and disarray. It is a sad plight to see such social media posts creating communal tensions among people that spreads like a forest fire, engulfing all and sundry in its fury. Indians need to go easy and not take things so personally so much so that avenging the post-sharing person becomes the task at hand. It has been 70 years since India attained independence and it gives a negative impression of our otherwise secular country to the world, if religion and caste based tensions take precedence over communal harmony and peace. Being a diverse country becomes of no use if we cannot appreciate and celebrate that diversity.
Social media helps in real time information sharing, communication of various issues and to evoke awareness of happenings across the globe. Let it be treated as an independent pathway of thought sharing and given equal freedom just like print and other media.
Let us know how best to avoid such riots triggered through social media in the comments section.