zzSocial media is a funny thing. People consume news and feel powerful as they opine, share, tweet, discuss, assimilate, tear apart… you get my gist. People debate and almost come to spars, as they vociferously engage and defend their points of view. People have time and people have minds and unfortunately, people have keyboards and people have Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.

Recently two cases have stuck in my mind. One, the Uri jawan killings. Two, the Brangelina split. Let me tell you what bothers me. I’d love to know what you think. Seriously!

For those who don’t read the news and somehow escape the social media frenzy, trending items and more, Wikipedia states: The 2016 Uri attack was a terrorist attack by four heavily armed terrorists on 18 September 2016, near the town of Uri in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was reported as “the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades”.[1] They are said to have lobbed 17 grenades in 3 minutes. As a rear administrative base camp with tents caught fire, 13–14 army personnel were killed. A gun battle ensued lasting six hours, during which all the four terrorists were killed. An additional 19-30 soldiers were reported to have been injured in the attack.[2]

I am aghast at the reactions of my friends and acquaintances. While terrorism of any sort is distressing, and perhaps the world is now becoming a little desensitised as we are bombarded, pun intended, with this sort of news all the time, people are all out asking for war. People are exhorting, encouraging, asking for war. How can violence be a solution? How can nuclear bombings (also being discussed widely on Facebook, of all places!) be an answer? The world has only seen two significant nuclear bombings, once again, Wiki states: During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted atomic raids on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events were the only times nuclear weapons have been used in combat.[3]

The world still reels from those. And my Facebook friends ask for this, as though asking for another slice of cake?

To come to the second issue, Brangelina. For the uninitiated, Brangelina is the name of the erstwhile Hollywood power couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Partners since 2005, married for the last two years, with six children, some biological and some adopted, they have been easy on the eyes, and so easy on the ears and the heart, with all the Human Rights work they both engage in, apart from their careers of being two of the top actors in Hollywood today. The Internet is full of memes, some in very poor taste, of how men can rejoice because even a hottie like Pitt can get dumped, how Jennifer Aniston, another film actress, and Pitt’s first wife, is laughing in an I-told-you-so manner.

I think this news is distressing, sad, and must be extremely traumatic for Pitt, Jolie, and their six children. Yet people think it’s cool to share, judge, laugh. Why is it fun to laugh at someone’s pain? Who gives people the right to do that? And social media companies? Well, they are laughing all the way to the bank.

So, social media is a funny thing. It consumes us as we consume it. Armchair activism, from the comfort of their living room, remote in one hand, a bowl of chips in the other, is allowing people to sit and comment and share and judge on the issues closest to their hearts.

I think this is a kind of village meeting. In the past also, perhaps people would meet and discuss. But the problem now is, the village has grown. No longer are we discussing issues of how to get more rainwater for our crops, or whose daughter has run away with whose nephew. Perhaps those issues were real, and the discussion brought some solutions. Now we are commenting, sharing and changing perceptions of people on all kinds of events and news. I am all for free speech, but some of it is getting dangerous and some of it is in very poor taste.

I think we need to take a step back from this endless consumption of social media. If there are issues we care about, perhaps we can do something a little more real. If we care about the Brangelina split, perhaps we can look at issues in our own relationships.

But now, enough writing. Facebook is calling me and there are tweets to be tweeted.

[1] BBC News. 18 September 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
[2] Uri terror attack: 17 soldiers killed, 19 injured in strike on Army camp, Times of India, 18 September 2016.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_warfare