Sometime back, I posted my views on the events that happen in our life and how our understanding about those events is not clear, because of the media opinions and projections. We are not sure about what happens in the politics, business, society and states unless the projection from Media in TV/Web/Papers. Our views are clouded and our vision is blurred. Most of the times, it is tunneled and we don’t want to see the complete picture. Social media in all of this has a even more strong impact, as it is interactive, live and responsive. Anything and everything that one thinks and has to say, is just a click away. There is a lot of white noise on the Web and with increase in access to internet, this noise keeps on increasing.
I would like to share the story of Man behind the Egyptian revolution, who created a huge impact on the Egyptians via Social Media. Here is what he has to say and I firmly believe on the same lines :
“I was hit hard on my head. I lost my balance and fell down, to find four armed men surrounding me. One covered my mouth and the others paralyzed me. I knew I was being kidnapped by state security. After, 11 days of complete darkness, I was set free. And three days later, Mubarak was forced to step down. It was the most inspiring and empowering moment of my life. It was a time of great hope. Egyptians lived a utopia for 18 days during the revolution. They all shared the belief that we could actually live together despite our differences, that Egypt after Mubarak would be for all.“
This is what once Gandhi also visioned and everyone came along for protesting against the British rule and India got Independence. But what followed back then in India, repeated in Egypt too, this time more of it on the Social Media end. He continues to say :
“But unfortunately, the post-revolution events were like a punch in the gut. The euphoria faded, we failed to build consensus, and the political struggle led to intense polarization. Social media only amplified that state, by facilitating the spread of misinformation, rumors, echo chambers and hate speech. The environment was purely toxic. My online world became a battleground filled with trolls, lies, hate speech. I started to worry about the safety of my family. But of course, this wasn’t just about me. The polarization reached its peak between the two main powers — the army supporters and the Islamists. People in the center, like me, started feeling helpless. Both groups wanted you to side with them; you were either with them or against them.“
“That day I made a very hard decision. I decided to go silent, completely silent. It was a moment of defeat. I stayed silent for more than two years, and I used the time to reflect on everything that happened, trying to understand why did it happen. It became clear to me that while it’s true that polarization is primarily driven by our human behavior, social media shapes this behavior and magnifies its impact. Say you want to say something that is not based on a fact, pick a fight or ignore someone that you don’t like. These are all natural human impulses, but because of technology, acting on these impulses is only one click away.“
This is part of the reason, I had to go silent from Blogging World. I needed to reflect on what I posted and what was the impact that it created on the readers. I needed to be clear on what I say and why I say.
In my view, there are five critical challenges facing today’s social media.
- We don’t know how to deal with rumors. Rumors that confirm people’s biases are now believed and spread among millions of people.
- We create our own echo chambers. We tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, un-follow and block everybody else.
- Online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. All of us probably know that. It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars.
- It became really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media, we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs. And once we do that, it lives forever on the Internet, and we are less motivated to change these views, even when new evidence arises.
- In my point of view, this is the most critical, today, our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.
So I urge you to think on this end, that may be it is easy to just forward any message that you get, may it is very easy to like a post, share it with your friends, but every time you do something of that sort, you are adding to the white noise and you are amplifying the polarization. May be next time, when you share your views, be free to share if you believe them, be ready to listen to other views and ready to agree if you are convinced. As long as you don’t blindly add to the noise and as long as you are ready to share/express your opinions with certain acceptance level, we can collectively grow as society.
Thank you very much. Please feel free to share your opinions about this post as well, let’s start from here !