The impacts of social media in society is recognized by highly motivated social media activists and social analysts. They know full well the power they have of moulding and forming public opinions through social media
By Syeda Qudsiya Mashhadi
Not many years ago Facebook and other social networking sites were looked down upon as activities of the frivolous and idle youth. Online chatting was the new evil and parents discouraged the use of internet in their homes.
The scenario today has changed quite a bit. Facebook and Twitter are not just tools to pass time and find friends on the net; they have become modern tools of expression of personal opinion and social gathering in the hands of social media activists, analysts, celebrities and journalists.
Besides Social Media (SM) activists, there are hacktivists [hackers who hack for a cause] who excel at attacking websites of their rival countries.
It is a fact that the exponential increase in the influence of Social Media is a horrific nightmare for governments who want to have a firm control on what is accessible to the public, as well as for the news and print media who give news in accordance to the agenda of their sponsors.
I want to bring forth the negative as well as positive aspects of Social Media in our lives.
NEGATIVE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
In todays world of information technology, when people spend most of their time on social networking sites, it has become easier to gather information about any individual. Facebook is a dream come true for intelligence agencies like CIA as people willingly share all their even personal information.
Like all mediums of media, SM too can be used for spreading of vulgarity, immodesty and illegal activities. As a Muslim, we are constantly reminded in Quran and Hadith about the importance of Haya [Modesty] and how Emaan and Haya are interconnected.
It is painful to see that unbridled youth of today is involved in immoral activities on SM and also spreading to and sharing it with others. It is definitely the responsibility of parents to monitor the activities of their children on internet and particularly on SM because it can have great repercussions.
Another disturbing aspect of SM, especially Facebook, is of the fake IDs. People do it for various reasons; sometimes it is just boys posing to be girls in order to interact with other females on Facebook. But mainly it is done for greater more nefarious reasons, basically for spying and psy-ops.
In this way, many unwanted people are added in your friend list and they can easily monitor your activities by posing to have the same likes and affiliations as yourself. This method is being employed by intelligence agencies, especially CIA and RAW, to spy on their rivals and also to sow seeds of dissent amongst their enemies.
The advent of SM has also seen a decline in the sanctity of an individuals privacy. Internet giants like Google monitor every activity of internet users and provide this data to intl. agencies.
To have some idea about how people are being tracked on internet and SM, enter the name of any person you know, in Google Search, whether a friend or a family member and you are instantly going to get information about all their activities in the Cyber World:
- their comments on different Facebook Groups.
- heir comments on different blogs.
- pictures that they have uploaded on social networking sites or other websites.
- their info on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus that they have made public.
Another disadvantage of SM is psychological in nature. The excessive use of SM makes human beings quite anti-social and they shy away from actually spending time with friends and family. Reading books is one of the best hobbies and it too has suffered as the attention of the youth is wholly consumed by the SM.
Elections 2013 in Pakistan saw the phenomenon of Social Media reaching its Zenith. In fact its ugly face was more obvious than its pretty side. The Social Media teams of various political parties crossed all boundaries of etiquette and ethics when it came to maligning the opponents.
Mudslinging of highest level was seen during the election campaign on Facebook and Twitter and personal lives of politicians were broadcasted to entire public. It is the right of the public to know about the lives of their leaders, but truth should always prevail. Making cock and bull stories, name calling and spreading fake photos modified by Photoshop, is immoral and decadent.
POSITIVE ASPECTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA:
Positive aspects of Social Media are not easily perceived or understood by an average layman who uses his Facebook just to share his/her picture having dinner or update personal status about how he/she is feeling that day.
The greater impact of SM is recognized by highly motivated social media activists and social analysts. They know full well the power they have of moulding and forming public opinions through SM. If used to achieve a greater goal for a sublime purpose and for reasons that are morally and ethically sound, SM can play an extremely positive role.
Being a Muslim, the first and foremost advantage I see in SM is the sharing and spreading of Islamic knowledge. Constant reminders from Quran, Hadith and majestic words of great minds from our glorious history are a source of inspiration and help in our personal development. If one really wants, one can use SM to contribute to the society in a productive way.
News that is not shared with the public by the electronic and print media is now accessible through SM. Many dictatorial regimes and even democracies that want to hide their actions from the public eye, keep a tight lid over their media but have no control over SM and hence the people who are active on SM are more aware of what is happening nationally and internationally.
The media is actually not free even when they claim so because they have to serve the interests of their pay-masters. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see that anti-state elements like BLA and TTP are given maximum coverage on Pakistans private News Channels while the sacrifices of the Pakistan Army are brushed aside.
Questions are being raised about Two Nations Theory and the founding fathers of the nation by Liberal Fascists to stir up controversy. In fact, in the recent years, Pakistani media has actually become anti-Pakistan.
The one worthy thing that I have observed on SM is that there are boys and girls and even mature men and house wives, who are essentially on SM for doing beneficial work for the society that is in bounds of our moral values and religion.
A female can in point of fact communicate with a male without having to meet him and or talk to him. Facebook and Twitter are used as means of communication for doing community work and conveying valuable information and this can easily be achieved remaining in the bounds of Shariat. Not the majority of public, but quite a few individuals in Pakistan are very focused on their work and mission.
Just as SM can be used for propaganda, in the same way it can also be used for keeping the public informed. There are many issues which would not have reached the public loud and clear if the SM was not highlighting them. Whether it is the Palestinian Intifada, Kashmirs struggle for freedom or the massacre of Burmese Muslims, the SM activists raised their voices on Facebook and Twitter on such burning issues and spread awareness.
In short, we see that SM is just another medium like our TV or Computer and is not an evil in itself. It depends upon the person using it whether he makes good use of it and serves his country and fellow men, or chooses to become a nuisance for others. Let us be the light that others follow and not the dark pits of Hades where others fall.
The author of this article blogs at Voice of East