As technology is advancing, it is bringing us more gifts. Social media platforms are one of the boons of technology. Social media is the only connecting thread to the outside world during the coronavirus era. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or TikTok for that matter, run the web world. If we think about it, these platforms or applications are one of the most powerful artefact of the 21st century.
Having the ability to go online and see first-hand that you’re not alone and not in your bubble of struggle is huge. It’s been inspirational to see the world connecting, sharing positive stories, tips and ways to get through this. That’s when social media comes into its own, when it truly connects, motivates and enhances our lives. It should be a force for good.
On one hand where social media platforms are doing wonders in many aspects, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, on the other hand it is leading to nowhere but hatred and chaos. Let me first start with the good social media has brought to us during coronavirus era:
- Digital consumption is in full swing which led to the spread of awareness about the do’s and don’t’s of the lockdown among common people. The government releases one or the other guidelines regarding the lockdown. According to the reports, the number of minutes spent by readers on news sites has increased by 46% in the same period last year. And since people can not hang out with their friends in real life, they are connecting virtually on every platform possible.
- With the easy accessibility of the internet and social media platforms, companies have introduced and adopted the concept of work from home. It is not only Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram seeing increased traffic. Zoom and Skype user numbers have increased since the pandemic began.
- Social media has given a platform for fundraising to fight against COVID-19. Facebook has collaborated with some of the biggest names in Indian entertainment to put together a home-to-home fundraiser concert, ‘I For India’. The vision for the concert by leaders from the entertainment industry had three major objectives- to entertain those locked down in their homes, to pay tribute to those who are working on the frontlines, and to raise funds for those who have no work, no food and no home.
- Creativity flooded the social media platforms. Be it Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, content creating has become a prime source of earning. These platforms are reaching out to their creators in India to continue to make engaging videos during the lockdown. Standup comedian Zakir Khan is trying a sit-down format at home and tech creator Gaurav Chaudhary is reviewing ventilators instead of gadgets on YouTube. Fashion influencer Komal Pandey is shooting some fun fashion content all by herself on her phone during the lockdown. Celebrity fitness instructor, Yasmin Karachiwala is running a live session to give major fitness motivation. In a conversation with The Telegraph, on being asked about how to stay healthy during the lockdown, Yasmin said, “There are many ways to stay active by doing household work, doing virtual classes, or going on YouTube and following one of my routines. After every hour you sit, get up and walk around for five minutes. Eat healthy meals that you would enjoy, and most importantly, stay hydrated!”
- OTT (Over the Top media) platforms have become the new mainstream source of the internet. However, the pandemic has shut down cinema halls. There has been no major difference on the entertainment front. Today when the lockdown is giving us a hard time, people are discovering the joy of sitting at home and binge-watching web series and movies. According to the Founder and CEO of Hungama Digital Media, Neeraj Roy, there has been a 20% increase in viewership on Hungama Play since the beginning of March. This spike was first witnessed in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, but was seen in other cities as well.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin now. With the rise in the consumption of social media, there is also a downside to it.
- The Bois Locker Room Case: Cybercrime does not only involve hacking or virus attacks. When the computer is used as a weapon for pornography, cyber terrorism, fraud, violations, and so on, it is nothing less than a cybercrime. The Bois Locker Room Case highlighted the misogyny in society. Teenagers being involved in such heinous crime only show the plight of schools and homes where rampant sexism is ignored. The screenshots of the Bois Locker Room page on Instagram is the epitome of severe exploitation of social media. The incident is the reflection of a much larger societal problem. The social media or digital media has become a platform for acting adulthood and contrive outrageous crimes like fostering rape culture.
- YouTube vs TikTok controversy: The ongoing feud between YouTube and TikTok is well-known. The origin of this controversial feud is the roast culture on digital platforms. Both platforms vary in terms of content and copyright. CarryMinati, undoubtedly has a huge fan base and the first YouTuber to start the roast culture. Besides, the first Indian YouTuber to collaborate with Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise. Recently, his roast video on TikTok dismantling the TikToker Amir Siddiqui word by word was pulled down by YouTube India. The video, breaking all records bagged more than 16 million views on YouTube. Succeeding the removal of the video, netizens started the trend #JusticeforCarry. YouTube claimed that the video violated the YouTube policy. Well, pulling down a video for valid reasons is not a problem. Moving on, this disrespecting game started by two digital platforms is promoting hatred and inconsiderate behaviour.
- Misinformation during the pandemic: On March 30, it was reported that six attendees at the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic religious reform movement in Delhi’s Nizamuddin locality, had died of COVID-19. Data collected by the Home Ministry till April 1 shows that out of the attendees, 1,051 have been quarantined, 21 have tested positive and two have died. This incident led to fact-checking websites reporting a bombardment of fake news targeting Muslims for the pandemic. Video clips were shared on Facebook and WhatsApp that portrayed Muslims actively working to spread the virus in India. Moreover, there was a Islamophobic propaganda on social media, with hashtags such as #CORONAJIHAD and #NizamuddinIdiot trending on Twitter.
— shubham shukla ji (@shubham00009) April 6, 2020
It’s easy to focus on the stumbling block especially when it is associated with social media. According to me, staying united, motivating people, and spreading positivity is what should be done during this hardship. We’re all in this together.
The views are author’s own.