How Social Media is disrupting society

Full Disclosure: I am a strong believer in the abilities of social media platforms and have an account is almost every one of them. I am publishing this article based on what I have felt using these platforms for more than a decade — beginning from the “Orkut” world. I am sure there are a lot of things that our society did well, because of the rise of social media. However, my article is going to focus on the other side of it — viewed from my angle of the lens.

Though I live in the United States, I am an avid follower of things that happen around the globe and especially in my native— India. If you are one of those folks who fight against fake news and stand up for privacy, you would have already noticed that most of the “forwarded” messages that you receive in Whatsapp or the “Shared” content on Facebook are fake. There are more than a couple of problems due to these fake news being spread around.

Religious Hatred

This is one of the major implication of people exploiting these social media platforms. They write fake stories or articles and use them to spread a sense that people in other religion is not respecting yours. Believing whatever you see or read on these platforms, you are then lured into the pit of hating people from other religions.

I really understand there is is a very small subset of the people creating or launching these hate-campaigns. However, with the spread of memes and troll groups active across these social media platforms, the reach for such messages is a lot.

If you think of it, the real issue might be something very minor, but the way these memes or posts gets engagement in these platforms, people are forced to think that this is a serious issue and many people are discussing this.

Couple weeks back, I read something about a new feature that Instagram is probably going to introduce — hide the number of “loves” for a post to others except for the publisher. I definitely vouch for this idea and I believe that other platforms should also follow the same. Hiding the number of likes or loves will let people take un-influenced decisions and help them to have better thoughts.

My take: Just give these memes, and click-bait articles or videos a pass, and log off of the social media, new channel discussions and step out, talk to people, enjoy the weather. You will realize that everything is normal.

Wrong Medications

A couple of weeks back I received a video from one of the Whatsapp groups that I had “joined”. The video was related to how not to treat cancer from Hospitals, but rather take some home-remedies and do a self-treatment. I believe that the old way of curing fever or a sore throat by letting the course to run and body fight on its own is really good to improve your immunity. But I don’t think that for things like cancer, you do the same. If you look back, the life expectancy in India in the 1960s (when we had lesser hospitals) was 41 years. However, life expectancy in 2019 is close to 70 years! I can definitely relate this to the advancements that we have made in the medical industry (and to the infrastructure). So, always depending on the old ways might not be a good idea. You might want to consider the advice of your doctor and take up the treatment as directed. Self-treatments can make the situation worse or even fatal.

I am also aware that the medical industry is one of the corrupted fields with private hospitals making money from people with unwanted treatments and organ-transplant scams. However, considering the pros and cons, I still recommend getting proper treatment.

Please do not trust those religious leaders who claim that they can do magic with a touch!

Personal attacks

Probably somebody might be able to recollect this story of this person, who was one of the victims of such a personal attack. This happened somewhere in the northern part of India. There is this woman, who wrote a post on social media that the person tried to molest her, with his picture. It was a blast then. Moral-policing started and people were abusing this guy. Police lodged a complaint against him and arrested him. He was behind the bars for two years of his life. Nobody tried to hear his side. When the court proceedings started, it became clear that this guy was innocent and the girl framed him. The reason — she rammed her car into his motorbike and he reacted to it!

Come on, spoiling one’s life, changing the course of a person's life, career, family, dreams and wonderful years is definitely not the right way to use social media for.

When you read the news, before jumping into conclusions, be enthusiastic about the other side of the story too — the truth might be on the other side.

Stealing money — spoofing, spamming and other scams

Yesterday, my dad sent me a link that says “FCA giving away 15 Jeeps for free!”. Of course, who doesn’t want a free Jeep? Wow! But then, if you closely look at the link, the campaign is not hosted on Jeep website’s domain. But an amazingly similar one (I’m not including the link here so that people don’t share it to others and generate more traffic). On a first look, or even a second look it looks like it’s a real deal. But then, the whole intention might be to steal data, put initial money for taxes (Nigerian scams, anyone?). They have many ways to trick you into giving your hard earned money to the scammers.

Another story — there is this person in a remote village of the Indian state Tamil Nadu. He works hard and takes care of his family well, however, the income was never sufficient to live a quality life. One day, he got a WhatsApp message that he has won a lottery worth 100,000,00 INR. However, he will have to pay the taxes worth 800,000 so that they can transfer the money to his account. He was so happy, was telling his immediate family that their worries and struggles are all over and they will be leading a better life. He literally put in all his savings, jewelry and whatever he got to make that 800K and transferred to the spammers. I bet you can imagine the rest.

Awareness! Awareness! People not getting aware of the kind of scams happening over the internet is the main reason why this old trick still works.

The mobile phones are now so cheap that the basic ones come all connectivity and people are obviously attracted into the glamour of social media without realizing what might be waiting for them.

There are more fake stories spreading since the inception of social media — HIV in Frooti, Cosmic Rays by NASA, etc. Stop forwarding videos/information that you can’t trust or do not show authenticity.

Probable solution(s) for fake news

  1. When you read a story or a forwarded message, vet for the credibility of the publisher, if any. If there no information about the publisher, probably it’s not a good idea to trust the message.
  2. Quality and timeliness of the content. Spelling errors, grammatical mistakes are red flags. Reputable sources do good proofreading and are less prone to such errors.
  3. Think twice before believing something. Think critical. Ask yourself, “Why was this story written? Is it to influence me of a certain viewpoint? Is it selling me a particular product? Or is it trying to get me to click through to another website? Is it trying to steal my data or money?
  4. Do a search in the fact-checking websites. Some of them are:

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