Fake It Till You Make It: Social Media Lessons From Abhinandan’s Coverage
India’s hero Abhinandan is back. He not only downed enemy planes, but saved all information from landing in the hands of Pakistan. In what can only be heroic, despite his injury from the ejection, he took all the papers and maps, shredded them and soaked them in a pond and some he even chewed up. What’s this man made of one wonders? And then one wonders what’s our media made of? Our air warrior will take some time to digest all that has happened and continues to happen around him. But what he will truly be disappointed in, is the way some of the mainstream media and the majority of social media shredded every bit of information to simply suit their shrill factor.
What’s this man made of one wonders? And then one wonders what’s our media made of?
India attacked Pakistan after the terror attack which killed 40 Indian soldiers. But we truly went to war on social media. As an observer of how social media impacts politics, this incident only reinforced how every bit of information and news is only out there to be a spin doctor to suit whichever person or party is putting it out.
- A nobody with no experience and no knowledge is an expert and is ruining meaningful dialogue with a rant. This is a massive challenge.
- Most of this misinformation is born in the offline world and fed into social media. So clearly, we have a bigger problem.
- Social media gives access but people stir inside. We saw not just Indians in India, but the world over, get into the conversation.
- It’s outrageous how much the onus really lies on the reader or viewer.
I am sharing some observations on how with social media, we have ‘the fifth pillar of democracy’ that’s still more mud than concrete.
Social Media ‘Pressure’
Commentary across media and by media talked the ‘pressure’ Indian government is under post-Pulwama attacks. The ‘nation wants to know’ because someone on social media is desperate to tweet or post that ‘yes, we did it.’ What is this pressure? Never heard so much talk of how social media actually put the government in the spot to take action because angry social media wanted to quell their thirst. One commentator said, “There is tremendous pressure because people on social media want to see something done.” Clearly, the number of people and speed of information sharing is tremendous and that’s the new definition of ‘pressure.’
Clearly, the number of people and speed of information sharing is tremendous and that’s the new definition of ‘pressure.’
In social media, we have an army of people who are speaking up. A nobody with no experience and no knowledge is an expert and is ruining meaningful dialogue with a rant. This is a massive challenge. In such cases why are non-entities turning experts? How does one control that? “Those who will never fight the war, are sitting on their sofas and instigating war and hate without realising war is real. Real people, real deaths, real families and lives are impact.”
I am reminded of this comment by author and doctor Genereux Philip “Overthinking is parasitic. It’s viral. It’s deadly, even. Letting yourself fall victim to overthinking doesn’t just kill your happiness, it destroys who you are.”
On both sides of the line of control, a massive amount of misinformation, propaganda, wrong videos and more fake news has been doing rounds. Its objective was to excite people and tends to spread much faster than anything else. Wing Commander Abhinandan is hardly back and there is some fake video circulating where ‘his wife’ is telling the world how badly the BJP handled the situation. But then most of this misinformation is born in the offline world and fed into social media. So clearly, we have a bigger problem.
Most of this misinformation is born in the offline world and fed into social media. So clearly, we have a bigger problem.
There is no taking away from the disaster and tragedy of Pulwama where India lost 40 CRPF personnel leading the nation to singe. How did social media increase that pain and fuel the emotions? Gory details of what and how it happened were soon all over on social media with pictures of those dead. Later the funeral images and other details reached every household, poignant and stirred more anger. In the past as citizens without social media, we would wait for the newspapers or a radio cast and then see a reaction. But the images were never so quick, never so real, never so many. Social media gives access but people stir inside. We saw not just Indians in India but the world over get into the conversation.
We Wanted This
The military experts say, social media just lit the match by reflecting stirred emotions of a country. But they say India was keen to lead something as we have been more or less quiet since the Mumbai Terror attacks, the Parliament attack and many others. India had not taken an offensive route. Call it a sense of unpreparedness in the past or unwillingness says this expert but finally looks like the government felt it was ready.
The virality of euphoria and dissent is making everyone trigger happy. Radio, TV and physical rallies are now a thing of the past with social media in the driver’s seat. “When Uri happened, the government took ten odd days to attack. It takes time to decide. Political decisions may be governed by social media but military decisions are not. The impact of the strike can reverse if done in a hurry,” says a military expert. “What social media does is put pressure.”
The virality of euphoria and dissent is making everyone trigger happy.
Leave it to viewers?
It’s outrageous how much the onus really lies on the reader or viewer. Consumers of media are expected to spot the difference. And even understand the channel’s slant. What’s worse is that most viewers are reduced to understanding or finding meaning in shouting matches, sloganeering and media bias.
Those who believe we need to have a balanced conversation in a geopolitical situation like this, must regret the state of social media.
The sad truth is the mobocracy on social media kills its amazing, positive and humane side. There are those who are building restraint and talking of aman ki asha. There are those who are giving the reality check to a potential war. There are those that are fact checking and sharing what’s accurate. But none of these get pushed up in content demand. It’s the fake news that floats up. Those who believe we need to have a balanced conversation in a geopolitical situation like this, must regret the state of social media. For its very inherent purpose has been to be a social network and a connector, and that could very much be used for good.
The views expressed are the author’s own.