Tuesday 29 September 2020

Ranting in the era of social media

Talk to me about how the COVID pandemic has made us all Netflix addicts! And lo and behold - I watched The Social Dilemma directed by Jeff Orlowski released in January 2020. It was for a little over one and a half hours of disturbing information. It was about how the information served to us for free through social media and employ sophisticated bots to learn about us. I am not suggesting that this is new information - I know how social media functions, you are a product when you consume anything for free. Well, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook's animosity laced media releases explain that. However, while watching the documentary I felt like a pawn. I kid you not, I found myself wondering if a bot is deciding who I date, thanks to the algorithm on dating apps, I ultimately deleted my profile from dating apps. I definitely do not discount the fact that I may have been manipulated into believing or acting a certain way, thanks to all the information rolled out towards me on my Facebook feed.

Getting back to the documentary, it mentioned that social media has made it easier to instigate people using misinformation and create social distress. The polarity has been instigating civil unrest, and can potentially cause mass scale riots. Images, videos, content - can be extremely triggering. I find myself correcting - tag the post as 'Hide This Post' - on my Facebook feed when I see a triggering piece of information. It does ruin my day sometimes. Don't we all see and experience it in our day to day lives. How information can be triggering, toxic or just unproductive. Often after finding a trending thread on Twitter, I need to switch off and rest my mind. Faceless people fighting behind computer screens (many bots) can make one feel low, even if I do not participate in the conversation. The most recent time I found myself triggered was when Umar Khalid was jailed.

Overall, in terms of the world order - what we are doing today will not be the best course of action. We are putting those people in trouble who belong to a certain section of society. Maybe if we pick a historical narrative, it is same as what was done in the past -

1975 Emergency
Indo-pak division
1857 mutiny
World wars
1984 Anti Sikh Riots, Delhi
2002 Godhra/Gujarat Riots
Killing of Native people by colonizers
Black Lives
Labour Issues
.... and definitely more. The list does not end, I picked what I know of and I am in the process of learning. We do look back and wonder what got in to humans?  

Some of us do look at the 'present time' and wonder what is wrong with the world. There is clear polarity. The historical narrative is picked up in bits and pieces and presented as facts, without any regard for the context.

What do we do when faced with triggering information? The good news is that it is not so much about the information that is been presented to us but our understanding of how we consume the information. Internet is a great technology and it has made our lives easier, but while regulators will act on the regulation aspect of social media, we must deliberately take steps to sensitize and educate ourselves.

In the process of learning to survive with bots, here’s what I am learning to do:

1. Does this help in creating an inclusive world order

2. If I have a feeling of hate, I ask myself - why am I driven to hate? Am I projecting my traumas on a social order?

3. Have I developed a hatred fueled by social media?

4. What sources do I find reliable and why are they reliable?

5. Human beings are characterized by qualities or bad characteristics. What does my mindset say about me as a human being. Not that I want people to like me, can I look at myself and find contentment- that I did not hurt an innocent person, that I did not have an intention (selfish) when I did a good deed?

I'd close by saying - don't just rant, make a positive change with what you consume or express. Please share what you'd like to add to this list.

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