In recent times, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites are being given the importance that the print and electronic media have garnered over the years. In fact the print and electronic media are also pushing themselves to accept and establish an identity over these platforms. This shift in the way new media is being looked at today and the fact that the common man is himself or herself generating content or media and becoming the medium of communication and dissemination of information is something that everyone including the government and law agencies are struggling to accept and supervise.
The common man is posting, commenting, uploading photos and videos via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networking sites without considering the negative impact it could have on their future.
Many traditionalists would say that they’ve forgotten the “Watch your mouth” or “Think before you speak” advice that most of us, were given by parents while we were growing up.
The social networking tools available in abundance today have created spaces and forums for interaction, exchanging ideas and expressing political and social views freely, in order to encourage the freedom of opinion and expression. This has led to a dangerous trend over the years as the lines between freedom of speech and hate speech have blurred. Intolerant groups and extremists who are threatened by these tools of free speech are taking actions against those who cross their social paths.
A few days ago 2 girls in Mumbai were arrested for freely expressing their point of view on Facebook. The questions that arise are – whether social media, which is being touted as the platform for self-expression, has become a volatile and dangerous medium? Has the very purpose of encouraging public opinion being defeated? Does this require people to curb their need to freely express their opinions and views about things that matter to them and affect their life? Does this give rise to the need to be “politically correct” and watch what one says on ones own virtual space when these very spaces have been advertised as mediums that give all a voice and power? But, what use is this voice if it is to be toned down? What use is this power if it needs to be pulled down?
What I see as a rising trend is the birth of 2 kinds of opinionaters – 1. Who are going to be wary and will watch their back and front (in this case) every time they post their views. This will also see the birth of “Surrogate Speech”, through which people will need to cultivate the ability to say things indirectly and 2. Those people who will take this very warning personally and ensure that they continue posting freely and fearlessly; even mocking those who threaten their right to freedom of speech.
I have seen already seen the increase in the latter in fact in support of the girls who were arrested. This does not help the brand image of the world’s largest democracy not does it spell well for all the political and social groups that are trying their best to establish the “connect” with the public through these mediums.
What needs to be understood by both the common man and the law enforcing agencies is that there is a need to act socially responsible and increase tolerance in the way self-expression needs to be accepted and handled. The need to create “shadow lines” or “blurry boundaries” for the sake of “safe virtual existence” yet maintaining the right to information and self-expression has emerged which will ultimately play an essential role in the development of the society as an important contributor to the development of any country or group at large.
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