Is social media a tool for expression, or have we become a tool in the hands of social media ? Media has always influenced public opinion, but now, it has the advantage of being omnipresent. It has moved from the morning newspaper in the hands of the literate sections, to the television set in your drawing-room, to cars and bedrooms and now, at your fingertips all the time. Literacy is no longer a pre-requisite with the onslaught of audio-visual modes, and availability of vernacular localized versions of content. The revolution in the field of communication is laudable, but has also increased manifold, the vulnerability of the masses to politically or profit motivated messages.
Of Intellectuals and Power Lobbies
The intelligentsia is the section of population that chooses brain-work as their vocation in life, as opposed to a manual worker. But this is the class that depends on the political and business masters for its livelihood. They need approval from these entities, before taking their mission in life ahead. The Civil Services draw the crème-de-la-crème from universities, and assign them to a life of subjugation to the political masters. Self-employed professionals like doctors and lawyers remain consigned to the narrow lanes of anonymity, unless they align themselves to strong lobbies. Lobbies provide the forum for displaying your talent or competence. There is no system for recognizing brilliance of individuals, outside educational institutions, which amounts to a major part of your adult life. What happens inside educational institutions is a matter of a separate debate. These lobbies become the dealmakers, the movers and shakers that run the country.
“Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality” — Stephen Covey
The independent intellectual does not easily subscribe to a lobby, as they fear loss of freedom. So, there we have several “ivory towers” floating in the mainstream of mediocrity, which are ineffective in transferring their brilliance, or propagating their ideologies to the mainstream. The floating islands are hired as anchors by the massive merchant ships, when needed, but discouraged from connecting to the mainstream. Lifeboats are distributed as a relief measure, but bridges are never built.
The lobbies hold control being the public face of institutions, and the resonance that this association generates is unidirectional. It degenerates to dissonance, the moment an independent opinion is expressed, or a stand taken. Rebellion is crushed instantly and noiselessly, as it holds the power to destroy and replace the lobbies. The components of a lobby share common interests of wealth-generation and self-preservation (not necessarily by ethical means). These are some of the strongest bonds in the world, as a single weak link can annihilate the chain.
Self-preservation is the strongest instinct in the world, which invokes different reactions. It leads the unethical to unite, and the intellectuals to remain isolated. It is about what one is trying to preserve, and what kind of ecosystem does one need to survive. The book written by C.G. Somiah, an ex-bureaucrat is titled “The Honest Always Stand Alone”, and a review of the book was titled “A Lucky Loner in the Corridors of Power”. The titles chosen for both speak volumes. (Weblink http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-bookreview/a-lucky-loner-in-the-corridors-of-power/article590514.ece)
The Influence of Social Media
The reach of the social media is utilized
1. To project politically motivated opinions and ideologies.
2. To drown the voices of sanity by trolling.
3. To generate user content for the business entities that make their millions through it.
4. To divide the population into manageable chunks, so that they never become a powerful unified lobby. Issues that can whip up a frenzy of emotion are carefully chosen.
5. To divert attention from other issues that can expose the Lobbies. People are busy celebrating ‘never-heard-before’ Days and Weeks, or analyzing the implications of an isolated statement, rather than think about the economic issues or corruption in high echelons.
6. To crowd-source ideas for rationalization of their actions. The same are immediately repackaged and sold.
7. To collect qualitative and quantitative data on opinions and waves, which can be converted to vote banks.
8. To encash on popular sentiment.
9. To collect inputs from the population, which can be used to rule over them.
10. To identify the loopholes and divides, which aid formulation of strategy.
“There are three classes of people – those who see, those who see when they are shown, and those who do not see” — Leonardo da Vinci
The Massive response of the Masses
Why do people play into the hands of string-pullers and manipulators ?
1. Fear of isolation
The need to belong is a social need of human beings.
2. Fear of repercussions
Going with the stream is always a safe mode.
3. Being with it
Nobody wants to be left out. Jokes which are “new in the market” carry a premium.
4. Giving in to emotional blackmail
“If you love your mother/ country …. “ kind of statements.
5. Outlet for angst
The repressed anger, frustration and misery from one source all find a convenient outlet somewhere else.
6. Display of loyalty
Supporting friend/ family/ community/ profession carries value. Voting lines on shows are an example which are money-churners for the telcos.
7. Instant response to provocative images or titles
Sensational words and images are used to evoke a mass hysteria. Public figures are commissioned, and their popularity misused to generate a wave.
Believing a social media post is easier than probing into the issue, collecting more information and analysing it.
9. The instinct of self-preservation
A bogey is raised, or a distant figure or issue is painted as being the ‘annihilator’ that will consume you, unless you act in defence. The gullible audience fails to identify the hidden annihilator in their own environs.
10. “Why not me” syndrome ?
Logic, intent or the purpose of common good are all defied in the wake of “ If X can voice his/her opinion, why not me ?”
The string-pullers have thrown a rope at your desperation. To survive, retain your sanity, manipulate or be manipulated is your choice.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle