I am not sure why social media gets such a bad rap. I not only thoroughly enjoy spending time on Facebook and Twitter but I also learn a lot from these platforms. I get news from all over the world within seconds of things happening and a really wide range of opinions and views on almost every topic under the sun, most of it unsolicited and free of cost! I also get to read what and how well my writer community writes – it keeps my feet grounded and my head from swelling and out of the clouds!
Of course, you get a lot of rubbish too, plenty of fake items and a boatload of extreme viewpoints, but you have to learn to weed them out. It doesn’t require great talent to verify stuff before you believe or share. You keep some of the fact checking websites open on separate tabs when you are roaming around on FB and Twitter, and also keep a big drum of salt next to you! That’s all you need – a healthy measure of skepticism, a readiness to disbelieve at first sight and a willingness to change your mind, even if reluctantly! I verify almost everything, especially news and opinions that seem true or too good to be true! Verification helps me form, confirm or change my own opinions on things, which in turn provoke and trigger a lot of my writing.
In time, you realize who posts genuine stuff and who doesn’t. Of course, I don’t believe any post even remotely related to politics! All politicians and their supporters lie, irrespective of party or ideology. Lying comes as naturally and easily as breathing to them. And I don’t believe anything that comes on WhatsApp! If I were to verify all the crap I get via WA, I’d probably be tied up the whole day and night!
Frankly, with a tool like Google around, if you still share or forward fake stuff, then really you are doing it deliberately or you’re mentally lazy or biased / prejudiced. Even on the occasions when I have been fooled into sharing some fake information, I’ve realized that it was my own prejudice that had stopped me from verifying it. I had once forwarded a video in which I had seen and heard a very prominent politician say something really offensive and outrageous. I soon got a rocket from one of my friends who was an ardent supporter of the politician. He sent me proof that the video was a ‘deep fake’ composite of several clips cleverly edited and put together. I realized that it was my intense dislike for the politician that had made me skip verification of the video. I was so happy to believe the worst about him that I just took its veracity for granted!
I prefer Facebook to Twitter, mainly because of the latter’s 140-character restriction! I don’t think any writer worth his salt appreciates that limitation! But that too has taught me how to trim and prune my words and in essence be more effective with limited resources. You can be funny, nasty, pithy and make sense even with a few words. Like pictures, despite the restriction, tweets can come pretty close to speaking a thousand words.
But there are peculiar things I have noticed about the FB population. Some users just come to read other people’s posts but never post anything themselves. These are the ‘e-Introverts’ or the good e-listeners! Many others come to post their thoughts and opinions but never read anybody else’s posts. To these people, the FB universe revolves around their own posts and the comments and likes that they get and respond to. That’s the online equivalent of liking the sound of your own voice and nothing else! But there is still one more segment that will read posts, comment and / or criticize but never hit the Like button. These users find it difficult to express appreciation for anybody’s post, even if they approve, agree or like it! Some of them will even post comments that will make you scratch your head – is this guy agreeing with me or is he sneering? These guys will often ‘top up’ your post with some comment of their own, to show that your post was incomplete! These guys are the digital sourpusses!
Jokes apart, these social media platforms are just tools that you can use any which you want. Contrary to what many people want you to think, these tools don’t have a life of their own. They are what you make of them, and that includes the owners and creators of these platforms. I know there has been a lot of bad press about manipulation of information, and hate the creators for doing / allowing it, but in practical terms, that is not a problem for me. Because I verify. Like crazy.
For me, these platforms are my connection to the world – I use them to educate myself, keep myself informed and make my life interesting. That is because of the diversity of content and the billion interpretations that come along with it. It makes you feel a million different emotions that you never even knew you could – no wonder they need to keep adding emojis to help you express what and how you feel!
I just can’t imagine myself on a platform where everybody says the same thing and nods and agrees with everybody else. I remember James Bond’s famous ‘Shaken, not stirred’. An echo chamber would be like telling your head ‘Nod, don’t shake’! It would drive me nuts!