This is an era of social media. From morning to night everyone is glued to the mobile phone checking Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, You tube everywhere at home, office, traveling, on public transports and roads anywhere. With the increase of addiction of Internet, social media is emerging as the best mode of communication. Popular social media vehicles include Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp. India has 118 million active social media accounts. Of this the more operated social media accounts is by the tech savvy youth. So it seems that the more influenced by the social media is today’s younger generation. Social media is used differently by different people for different purposes. One of the wide usages is by the politicians who harness the power of social media for achieving their political agenda. It is not an overstatement to say that social media is playing colossal role in political games.
What keeps people so engaged on the social media is rumors, false alarms, gossip and snoops. It just takes few seconds to click the share button with others; but how do you know what you are reading and sharing is true? Today people get so swayed by the posts they receive that majority of them share posts without least checking. By doing so, they deceive themselves and others. Its miserable, hoax items such as celebrity deaths, chain mails which previously used to be sent from emails, is now a hot item on social media because it spreads faster. Items such as election results, falsities about social network such WhatsApp will be charged, so and so or Facebook will not charged etc, scandals, and social experiments are the ones making rounds on social media.
Some false alarms lead to serious realities; as in September this year, in Uttar Pradesh a rumor took life of a person called “Akhlaq” in Greater Noida’s Bisada village. The 58-year-old handyman was attacked by a lynch mob that set upon his residence after rumors that a cow had been slaughtered there and the family had beef in the house.
This photo did the rounds on social media a few years ago, and the people in the snapshot clicking photographs made it seem more authentic. However, this image is nothing but a product of Photoshop as the two extra heads were copy pasted. This news made terrible rounds on social media saying “king cobra with three faces found on national highway” The people in the frame were clicking photos of a regular king cobra. This is height of stupid rumors.
This story broke on Whatsapp and Twitter with the Delhi Police apparently warning consumers from drinking Pepsi or Frooti as the blood of one of the factory workers who was HIV positive had accidentally mixed with a certain batch of the drink. The message claimed that the story was reported by NDTV as well. But both Delhi Police and NDTV denied those reports. In fact, HIV cannot even spread via ‘infected’ food.
Yo-Yo Honey Singh was one of the victims of the celebrity death hoax with a photo of the rapper lying in a hospital bed doing the rounds. But the photo was from his music video ‘Bring Me Back’ and a message was soon sent out from his Twitter handle that Yo Yo was safe and sound. Similarly despite what you may have read, Jeff Goldblum, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford and Rick Astley are alive. Some pervert minds enjoy spreading false news about other’s deaths. God alone knows, what enjoyment they get by doing so.
Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. The centre does not take policy positions. One of the Pew research study in December 2012 established that nearly 45% of the Indian web users connect on social media to discuss politics. People particularly youth are staying updated with the news through social media. By the exposure to the abundant information every day, the youth are getting more engaged in politics. They are debating, expressing their views on politics through social media. Many of the politicians are staying close to people through social media.
Young minds are vulnerable. They get captivated towards new things and happenings around them. Earlier the political discussions were limited to middle aged and old people but now youth is also involved in political discussions and social media is a platform for all the youth to share and express their views.
Rumors don’t spare even Gods; due to heavy insistent rainfalls in November this year, the Tirumala Tirupati shrine in the interests of safety of pilgrims had diverted the vehicular traffic through link road near the second ghat road. The management of the shrine kept 24 hours vigilance on the traffic, engineers and forest officials worked day and night in regulating the traffic without a mark of incident. In spite of smooth management, rumors were spread that the shrine is closed; devotees cannot take darshan of the Lord. The Joint Executive Officer of TTD, Tirumala, Sri KS Sreenivasa Raju strongly denied the rumors spread on social media about the closure of Tirumala shrine following rain havoc, which he termed as “baseless”. This shrine has never been closed for a single day and will never be closed ever.
The situation is calling attention to the changing state of the news media: as information online moves faster and comes from more sources, it’s more difficult to verify what’s true and what may be shockingly false and people get influenced so easily. Social media has given rise to spin doctors. A spin doctor is a person (often a political aide) responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view. It also means a person who publicizes favorable interpretations of words and actions of public figures especially a politician.
Research shows that people who gossip the most have very high levels of anxiety. They are generally are not popular because they cannot be trusted. They are mentally sick. All said and done, I would say that social media has given rise to nothing but rumor madness.