Social media has become an important part of modern lives in the contemporary world. It is used to stay connected with friends and family members and to keep track of current affairs and trending incidents. With the advancement of Web 2.0, it has become possible for users to generate their own content thus enabling interactivity between the user and the websites. Web 2.0 does not refer to any specific technical upgrades to the internet. It simply refers to a shift in how the internet is being used in the 21st century. In the present era, there is a higher level of information sharing and greater interconnectedness among users. This new version allows users to actively participate in the experience rather than just acting as passive viewers who take in information.
Web 2.0 enabled people to publish articles and comments, and it became possible to create user accounts on different sites, therefore more participation.
Interestingly we often tend to highlight the bright side of social media and ignore its dark side and the bad impact it makes on the lives of people. There are some general negative consequences associated with social media usage which include addiction, cyberbullying, isolation, depression, misinformation and propaganda. It has been observed that social media discourse also varies from place to place. The trends and the discussions going on are different in different places. It depends upon the emerging scenarios and the thinking ability of the users. Facebook is the largest and the most popular social media platform with 2.9 billion monthly active users and there is no surprise that Jammu and Kashmir UT has an overwhelming majority of Facebook users but it is quite disappointing to see that most of the user-generated content is worthless and trash. Last year, in Kashmir valley, a trend was started by some Facebook page managers in which they would abuse and troll some simple or naive people generally belonging to various political parties. Unfortunately, these social media pages became so popular that in a few weeks’ time, they had millions of followers and this uncivil content which trolled and insulted people was loved by a huge majority of Kashmiri populace. It was after many many months that this behavior was condemned and those trolls were discouraged to continue with their daily roasting. It has been more than a year since a mentally unsound person namely Fayaz Scorpio was introduced to social media and in a matter of days he became quite popular on social media, especially Facebook. Any civilized society would leave such a person to his own without bothering him but in Kashmir Valley, over a period of time, Fayaz Scorpio became a household name and a social media sensation. He became more popular than many of political leaders, actors, artists and intellectuals. People began watching his every single video without bothering about the content or the substance. Seeing this level of popularity established media persons, pages and outlets began uploading his every single video to get views, likes and subscribers. Any cultured and civilized society would have discouraged such filthy behaviour of these so-called journalists and page managers but to utter surprise, the Kashmiri society is letting this behavior continue. Just a month ago a screenshot was doing rounds on Facebook and highlighting the reality that a video clip of an Islamic scholar (Mufti) had 126 views in one week and on the other hand a vulgar dance clip of some girl had 3800 views in one hour. This speaks volumes about our social media discourse and user-generated content. It is pertinent to mention that JKUT has more than 65% young population below the age of 35 years and almost all of them are using social media and when such content is shared liked and viewed it could have dangerous consequences. A couple of months ago a literary personality had to close his youtube and Facebook channel because his intellectual content was not liked and consequently couldn’t get the required number of subscribers and viewership. The most dangerous part of the story is that a large number of digital media outlets and their reporters are wandering after Fayaz Scorpio and other mentally challenged or unsound persons to get some video content to be published on their channels. Many experts and scholars have been wondering why people like to follow and subscribe to such dirty pages which spread quite nasty and unpleasant content. Before authorities swung into action the onus lies on the literate and well-informed Kashmiri netizens to expose condemn and discourage sharing and popularising obscene and indecent content.
All those Facebook pages should be unfollowed and unsubscribed to set high standards of social media discourse. We already know in social media there is no significant third-party filtering, fact-checking or editorial judgment which makes it easy for propaganda, fake content and manipulated news coverage to gain a lot of exposure. There is also a thing called confirmation bias even well-informed informed people tend to consume content which confirms their pre-existing beliefs and neglect any fact which contradicts their opinion. Social media algorithms bring confirmation bias to a whole new level.
To make better use of Web 2.0 and your time on social media, utilize it for better communication, reasonable discourse and building strong relationships based on human empathy and kindness. Avoid trolls, misinformation, propaganda and fake news. Create awareness on social and environmental issues and ensure a peaceful virtual space.
Rayees Masroor is a columnist and writer from Kupwara and can be reached at [email protected]