Taming the Social Media !
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

Taming the Social Media !

December 6, 2019

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

It is reported that our Government is considering the idea of bringing in measures that will ensure that the identity and phone number of the first person who creates and sends a message on WhatsApp remains encrypted in the message. This will be on the lines of the EXIF data that remains attached to any photograph that is taken on a digital device like a camera, Smartphone or Tablet.

Our Government would do well to also ensure that along with the identity of the person generating the original message even the identity of anyone who modifies any message also gets tagged with it inseparably. That would not only deter senders of false news and hate messages but also those who twist and turn and falsify the truth downstream.

There may be many amongst us who may shout and scream that this will amount to an infringement of our right to privacy and free speech. But we have come to a stage where we should also ponder over what the unbridled right to free speech, abetted and assisted by the right to privacy, is doing to our society. We should understand that our Government is only trying to introduce some degree of accountability for all the good, the bad and the ugly that get circulated across the length and breadth of the world, unhindered by any boundaries and borders whatsoever.

What started as a means of communicating socially and exchanging information and ideas easily has now become a means of spreading much hatred among the entire human race. And, we all know very well that today the bad and the ugly ideas that are doing the rounds on our social media far outstrip the little good that gets pushed around or even pushed out altogether from the circuit.

So we will not be wrong in lamenting that today the social media has largely become the anti-social media of our times. And, the sadder and rather shameful part of this exercise is that many so-called very respectable and responsible members of our society too indulge in much hate-mongering through the social media simply because their identity remains hidden. It is rightly said that ‘Character is what we are in the dark’ and when we are sure that nobody is watching us a good many of us do not mind doing something uncharitable and unholy just to give an outlet to our frustrations.

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Many people harbour a dual personality and they enjoy playing a double game…playing the part of Dr. Jekyll who does much good in public view and Mr. Hyde who does much bad, incognito. If we are honest enough to ourselves we will all agree that among these are our intellectuals, professionals, technocrats, bureaucrats, leaders, politicians, public figures and our peace-makers too!

As of now there is no means of easily pin-pointing who is behind the generation of all the hate and angst that is flowing free on what we so erroneously call the ‘Social Media’. The grim truth is that most of us, yes, most of us, have become mindless, robotic ‘forwarders’ of all the messages and material that we endlessly receive on our phones without bothering to ask ourselves whether what we are doing is good or bad or whether it is even necessary. And, we have all become so addicted to this pastime of receiving and relaying information that we have also stopped asking if what we are forwarding could really be true!

This addiction is so strong that most of us wake up and become a little disappointed and even dejected if we find that there is nothing much in our in-boxes. And, on the few occasions when the internet breaks down or even slows down a little we become mean, snarling beasts that curse and grumble that our day has gone bad. The few among us who are graceful enough not to show their frame of mind overtly, suffer in silence but they do suffer!

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I am not venturing here to change this mindset or to dispense advice on how bad we have become and how we should reform ourselves because that lofty dream is certainly beyond the ability of one solitary person who sits in one corner of the world penning his thoughts to pass his time and meet the expectations of a handful of his regular readers. The change in our mindsets should come from within the hearts of all of us who call ourselves human beings, the highest of all creations on this earth and who take pride over how much better we are than all the other creations we call beasts.

And, the change in our hearts should come from an awareness of what is good and what is bad which is what makes us human in the first place. But this is exactly the ability which we seem to have sadly lost somewhere during our long journey from being beasts to becoming humans!

A little more on hand sanitiser use

Two weeks ago after I wrote about the now widespread use of hand sanitisers, my friend and Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Nagabhushan pointed out that I should also enlighten the public about the hazards of their excessive use and so here I am.

Although alcohol-free sanitisers are available in the market now most sanitisers are alcohol based and hence these are very likely to cause dryness and cracking of the skin if used excessively. Dermatologists too agree that many ingredients that are added as moisturisers to combat this side effect and also to enhance their effectiveness can themselves cause skin allergies.

And, the rather interesting truth is that the fancier and more expensive brands of sanitisers contain the maximum number of additives that not only maximise the incidence of allergies but also make it very difficult to diagnose their cause!

Incidentally, for the information of all those who are concerned about the use of alcohol, let me clarify that the alcohol used here is iso-propyl alcohol and not ethyl alcohol that goes into alcoholic drinks. So all those who think that they can take a quick swig from their sanitiser bottles to banish their blues have no reason to feel very upbeat about carrying one all the time!

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