Monday, August 12, 2013

One of the Greatest Strengths of Social Media

 We're social animals. We enjoy communicating. The allure of blogging, face-booking, twittering, posting videos or images is our ability to communicate virtually. Is it a complete waste of time?

There is this blogger I know who says he knows how long each visitor spends on his blog. There are some, says this SEO-savvy cynic, who spend less than 60 seconds on his post. These guests spend the majority of those seconds leaving a generic comment in the hope that the compliment will be returned with a comment on their own latest post. What a lot of frantic to-ing and fro-ing for nothing. Surely running around from blog to blog leaving such comments is a waste of their time. Oh, and we mustn't forget comments that try and waste our time-  from our good friend, Anonymous. This aggressive advertiser says "what a nice post" and having dispensed with the niceties goes on to add, "If you want to lose weight / know how to blog better / increase your libido, visit mine." I'm not sure about Wordpress but Blogspot sends comments from Anonymous to the spam folder for which I'm grateful.

I feel most ordinary bloggers do enjoy genuine interaction with people who they would never otherwise have known. For such people, as long as the virtual world doesn't completely take over their lives, blogging is very rewarding.

Which brings me to what I think one of the main benefits of social media is. It plays a very important role in keeping our news media on their toes.

News media today often doctor news depending on the owner's (or their sponsors') affiliations. Here's an example. In some countries checks and balances for such practices exist only on paper, The doctoring is blatant. Even reputed international news media often use covert tactics to influence public opinion in ingenious ways. How often have we seen them try and prevent someone they believe is against everything they stand for (their values, their tribe, their sponsors) talking perfect sense. That's not how they wish to portray that person to the world so the simple solution, if it is a TV channel, for example, is to voice over what that person is saying. The person is seen to speak but it is the commentator's voice that the listener hears giving us the angle the news channel wishes to portray. So many political leaders from the Middle East, for example, have recently had this unfortunate tactic used on them by TV channels of international repute.

How often have we seen a piece of news that they want forgotten played only once, and something they want us to remember, repeated every hour, on the hour and very often in between? How often did we see Saddam Hussein loading and firing a gun, albeit in the air, as compared to his saying that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction?

Ordinary people telling us what's happening in their nook of the world, even if their views might be completely prejudiced, hold our attention and interest. If they are able to convey things reasonably well, their insider knowledge lends them a certain authenticity. This is what makes newspapers and TV hesitate to doctor news too quickly or too completely to align it with their own beliefs. What's to prevent them from bribing or threatening such individuals to toe their line? The sheer numbers. How many of those thousands of individuals can they bribe?

In India we've seen newsmakers try and instil fear by marching young things who dare exercise their freedom of speech, to jail. Then there are those cartoon blogs poking fun at people in politics - the especially creative, popular and succinct ones managed in India were removed from cyber world. Such heavy handed tactics have been partially successful. Some bloggers have backed off completely and others have toned down their criticism. Luckily, many bloggers, facebookers and tweeters continue speaking out. With so many speaking out it is difficult for politicians or the platforms they use, like the news media, to clamp down on the public voice. [Obviously, newspapers and TV channels who claim they don't take sides have nothing to worry about.]

This doctoring of news won't stop. In India our checks and balances for anything lacks determined effort. Instead a determined effort to find ways to subvert rules, regulations, laws or even human decency never lets up. When a hundred bloggers with their own beliefs and affiliations don't hesitate to tell us their own points of view, we come to know, more or less, where the truth lies. In the above example of news doctoring it was a blogger who pointed out that the photo was doctored.

Of course we draw our own conclusions depending on our own beliefs. Who says we live in a perfect world? What I do say is, with so many of us blogging the greatest disadvantage is that we'll have to look through a mind boggling mountain of dross before we find the occasional gold. On the whole though, with so many of us blogging and opining - whether daily, weekly or monthly, the greatest advantage has to be that our news media will feel the need to be (relatively:) accountable.

Image from wiki - "Letthejourneysbegin" 
Sadly, the link I'd put up "http://2013/04/16/i-hate-to-make-an-accusation-here-but/" to give an example of news doctoring doesn't work anymore. Either, it has been removed by the author because the accusation was made and the mud stuck - job done, OR, it was removed by Google for being false which sounds unlikely.


  1. whether it's a blogger voicing out his/her opinion, a news channels galvanizing the masses, or a group of people protesting against some crime, it's the intent which is questionable. how many of us actually follow up a case? how many of us opine because we want to see some changes in the system?

    our voices are feeble and short-lived. thousands of bloggers wrote posts about that guwahait molestation case. how many of them know that those molesters are roaming freely on the roads of guwahati? and how many of them actually care? all they wanted to do was use this story to drive some traffic to their blogs (exactly how the news channels used the story). (of course, i am not generalizing.)

    as far as blog readers are concerned, when I know someone is reading my posts only because he/she wants a return visit then I don't enjoy the whole exercise.

    1. As long as we are human self interest will be part of our motivation. To what degree is the moot question. I would hate it if people only visited my blog to pat my back so I returned the compliment. I would hope they read my infrequent posts with interest before leaving a comment.

      Thinking of the bigger picture, in India, till not too long ago, most of us used to whisper about the negatives in our society behind closed doors. We gave speaking out and taking a stand a wide berth as it was literally, and without exaggeration, putting our lives on the line.

      All of a sudden we, as a collective have started speaking out. The movement progresses and then, thanks to the ones in power trying to use anything, including state machinery and the news media to throttle it, it takes two steps back.

      I hope people continue speaking out. Right now, I have to agree, our voices are feeble, short lived and disorganised. So much more could be done. But we have to be encouraged that it is a step in the right direction.

    2. As Debajyoti and You said right now our voice is feeble,short-lived it is because we never genuinely invested our interest towards the betterment of India..Even now many of us simply don't know the rights of a citizen,even if they happen to know that they would never use that as they think the Indian System is not capable of solving our issues..But Who made this Indian System the way it is today,obviously we the citizen..
      The main thing is We don't care so the Govt. don't bother and this will continue as long as we will keep the attitude "India mein Chalta hai"

    3. I agree. But what makes me hopeful is that our attitude of chalta hai, koi baat nahi and never mind yaar is changing - albeit, slowly.

  2. Well .. 'I missed a genuine blogger all these days '.. this is my first impression! I have seen your comments many a places but unlucky me .. only today I felt the urge to check your space thanks to the topic.
    Coming on the first part of the post - Honestly speaking, I feel , its better one does not leave any comment than leaving a comment which is a baseless one - it irritates when people do not interact :) but more when you have written about bananas and they compliment you on apples :( .
    U draw a toon on china grabbing Indian lands .. u get a comment - hahaha good one :(
    I mean whats good in this when neither of the two are chinese ?

    Social media surely has .. created an impact but then the fabrication of news has just minimized .. I feel.with political parties going online .. there are many comments on news sites which clearly indicate politically supported ..Moreover these political parties as you mentioned have been a reason of harassment to common people with their vigilance team keeping an eye on trending news and people's reaction.. I draw political toons and I know how fanatics behave via mails .. be it a writer or a college going girl.. they get harassed by cops when they criticize political wrong doing !!

    Although thanks to Social Media .. we can Shout Out Louder .. say when we need blood donations . when we need to promote some social events or gathering .. in fact in the Nirbhaya case .. many people had made a group on FB and dropped by to protest in person ..
    But the end result should remind us that we can speak louder and yet can be crushed as easily as we could be without Social Media.

    1. Had to laugh at your China example :).

      Many of us are first time activists. We don't know how to plan a sustained campaign. We don't know the number of tricks seasoned politicians have up their sleeve. One of the most used, in India, if citizens are very upset, do nothing till they've all "let of steam" and then do as we please.

    2. hehehe :) its sad to face such discouraging comments .. :D

      Yes .. you are right and moreover I think protests are suddenly taken to a level where people make someone as big as Gandhi was .. and then suddenly they wake up and feel that change has to take place NOW !!

      My point is as a commoner if we are so pro to make India a place worth calling Mahan .. then first stop looking at others .. change yourself .. when caught by cops dont dodge with bribe .. pay it if at fault .. when see a beggar do not pity him .. look for options from where you can get him a job to feed himself .. when on a govt run bus .. dont pay half the price and say u dont need to tickets .. when in govt office or cop station do not handover the cigarette pack to get your job done easily .. when you see packets on the road take the initiative to pick it up and put it aside .. and then if we do not even need to question corruption .. it will get weaker with every passing day ... and govts will change on their own .. they are one of us who are looting us WHY ? because like us even they are selfcentered !!! what is the point questioning a selfish when we ourselves are one ??

  3. Social media is very powerful, but what bothers me is some thing different. These days people are becoming social in social media only, not in real life. We are missing that part of the life.

    Social media has definitely created an impact on the society in general and on the youth in particular. It has the power to create and power to destroy.


    1. As I said earlier, aamjunta, we are new at this game and learning. From keeping our nose out of all this because "politics is dirty" to at least speaking out is, to my mind, progress.

    2. Agreed !! we ahve at least stepped in as Aam Janta ... we have started questioning the politics as a whole and we have started interacting with fellow Indians with alike and different thoughts and views .. change will and is inevitable.. slow and surely steady ..
      the best part is when 1 commoner is taken in police custody for using Right to Speech against politicians .. there arise 1000s with same dare .. and more ..
      one Aseem Trivedi and Ambika Mahapatra got arresting for lampooning 1000 cartoonists woke up ..
      I am hopeful that sooner than later these scamsters who are in political parties will fall short of space to run away .. I believe only literacy can bring change .. every one needs to be informed about the country...everyone needs to express his say .. through social media .. at least .. let them know we exist and we are growing .. not to throw them off the throne but to question their performance .. we need answers .. we pay taxes for this .. about 50% as direct and indirect .. we have the rights to ask - SIR why all money in your pocket ???

    3. I agree completely that literacy (of various kinds), the pooling of resources and large numbers speaking out will have a better chance of getting rid of the corrupt. But they will fight you tooth and nail as they have everything to lose.

  4. I think social media has evolved rapidly over the last few years. People know that you can organize mass movements and topple governments by it, that is why there is such an urgency to curb it.
    But as you have mentioned, we are still experimenting with it. The good news is that we are speaking our mind and people in power are afraid of it.

    1. As long as many of us continue speaking out, Amit, it will force them to watch their step. It might not stop them, but like you said, the potential for this movement to evolve is what frightens them.