Sunday, July 21, 2024

In praise of social media

Many videos on social media are often entirely misleading. 

Many videos on social media are often entirely misleading. 
| Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In 2000, as a student in Delhi, I had to undertake three-day journeys on Kerala Express travelling between home and university. The train trip used to be so monotonous that time seemed to stand still. I used to carry books to while away time. In the two mornings before the train reached Delhi, I used to buy The Hindu from newspaper vendors and devour it fully.

Recently, I travelled by train with my wife from Thiruvananthapuram to Palakkad. It was an eight-hour journey and I felt as if we reached our destination within eight minutes. The smartphone that has become an essential part of our lives helps us to ward off boredom completely. Nobody carries books nowadays while travelling.

In the 1990s and 2000s, my mornings used to be restless and irksome if the newspaperman did not bring my copy of The Hindu on time. Today, the newspaper is on my phone, and I can access the exact replica of the print edition at 4 a.m.

WhatsApp and Facebook help us keep abreast with everything that happens around us. Of course, we have to be extra vigilant not to be carried away by false and fake news that are abundant on social media. And yet, we are glued to social media as we are entertained by interesting video clips, gossips, sensationalism and the lack of manners seen in the comment boxes of many FB profiles.

Many videos on social media are often entirely misleading. Recently, I watched a video clip in which a man was being slapped and kicked by another man. The video was posted and shared on FB with the caption: “The owner of a godown beating a lorry driver for asking wage increase.” Those who watch the video will certainly believe that what the caption says is true as the man who is beaten wears a khaki shirt and lungi and the man who slaps him is well dressed.

Next day, I watched on the TV news that the video was falsely posted and shared. The fact was that the driver of a lorry sexually abused a small child and the child ran away from him crying. The father of the child found out the driver and slapped and kicked him. It is very difficult to separate truth from falsehood on social media.

And as the social media entertains us without a limit, often doctors and drivers forget professional ethics. I have seen bus drivers looking at, and immersed in, their smartphones while on the job.

I have personal experience of how a social media-addicted doctor robs his patients of their patience. There were many people and my token number was 53. The pain in my left side abdomen was insufferable. When each patient went in, I would think she/he would come out very soon. But every patient seemed to take more time than needed. At last my turn arrived and I went in. I sat in front of him for more than five minutes, but he was not even looking at me. He was immersed in sending WhatsApp messages and replying to those messages he received. He took only a few minutes to see what my problem was. Of the 15 minutes I spent in his consultation room, more than seven minutes he was immersed in WhatsApp. It was then I understood why each patient took so much time to come out!

The doctor’s WhatsApp addiction reminded me of what Albert Einstein said: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

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