Is social media inherently hateful?

The hate messages that are prevalent on social media these days has prompted this line of thought. Is social media inherently an origin of hate? What is that peculiar feature of social media which leads to such hate messages and nasty comments? This article tries to discuss the causes and the solutions for this growing problem.

The way social media has permeated into every sphere of our life has necessitated this question. Although for the majority of the people it is not very much essential, still at the very beginning, we must clarify what social media is. Social media can be defined as an online medium through which we can connect with the wider society. This definition would include not just sites like Facebook or Instagram, but also platforms like WhatsApp. But for the purposes of this article, let us not consider platforms like WhatsApp.

Social media and anonymity

The thing with social media is that it provides a certain amount of anonymity to the user. Since we are not asked for any proofs of identity etc. we can go on to create accounts with fake usernames and no one will ever find out. This is especially true of Twitter where even handles like @TheTweetOfGod are present. This anonymity feels like magic for some people. They feel as if they can write anything and get away with it, using their fake usernames.

Also in case of social media, we sometimes tend to forget that the person behind the username is a human being just like us. Whatever etiquette we generally follow in interpersonal conversations is generally washed away when we 'talk' to each other on the social media.

The large scale cases of 'cyberbullying' are a case in point. Hiding behind their keyboards, even cowards can assume the role of bullies. Thankfully, here I am not speaking from personal experience but from the accounts of various other people available on various media. Someone has posted her selfie on the net. Let us talk about her dress. Then let us all insult her face. Let us make personal comments on her, forgetting the norms of decency. Then let us hound her until she breaks down into a state of depression. This seems to be the go-to strategy for the majority of bullies and 'trollers'. The psychology of these people is just incredible. It is because they cannot muster the courage to say anything in real life that they are so active in the virtual world. Social media has become a strange kind of outlet for their frustration.

If you happen to be a celebrity…

If you happen to be a celebrity (of whatever level) there is a sure-shot guarantee that you will be trolled on the social media. Whether it is your appearance or your family or even your community or even some past incidents (in which you may or may not have been involved) all of these will be dug up and presented to you in the most horrendous form possible. Friendly jokes and humorous memes are all right. They help in creating a light-hearted atmosphere. The really good ones make us laugh for several minutes on end. But some of these jokes are extremely nasty. Some of these are not even jokes. These are simply hurtful things written by people who hope to see someone break down in despair.

The Twitter account of Ramachandra Guha is a case in point. For the minuscule few who do not know about Guha, he is a historian specializing in modern Indian history. He has written several biographies on Gandhi. His book 'India after Gandhi' which was a historical account of independent India, was probably the best book on history that I have ever read.

So much for introductions. But the Twitter account of Guha is not filled with reverential praises, but rather with hateful remarks and occasional threats. And what is the reason for that? Probably his liberal worldview, or maybe his persistent critique of communalism, or maybe even his praises of Gandhi (whom the right wing cannot tolerate being praised) or maybe a combination of all of these reasons are responsible for the hateful comments which Guha has to encounter on his Twitter account. Each and every time he shares an article (either written by him or by one of his friends) comments which are too hateful to be shared on an educational site like ISC are written. Apparently, several people with their real or fake accounts follow Guha for the exclusive purpose of writing these comments.

What is the solution then?

While using social media we have to remember that the person sitting at the other end is also a human – a human being just like us, with his or her emotions and everything. Whatever we were taught regarding manners when we were kids applies to social media as well. We need to learn how to tolerate various viewpoints. Disagree for sure, that is one of your fundamental rights. But disagree in such a manner that you appear to be a civilized person.

Regarding the question that was asked in the very beginning in the title of this article, I guess the answer is pretty much clear now. It is because of the anonymity that social media provides that people are able to make hateful comments. To combat this, ID proofs can be made a requirement for opening an account. These ID proofs may not be made mandatory but may be optional. Presence of some kind of verification would help us to distinguish the fake accounts from the real and also destroy the shield of anonymity that apparently empowers hate. Probably the problem may not be completely resolved, but still, it would go a long way towards reducing it.


Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao19 Jun 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

It is true that social media has become a good platform for people to post unreal and imaginary posts. While posting they never think that they are unnecessarily talking bad about somebody else. Somebody will first create and then people will forward it without thinking about the correctness of the message. Please see first who created the message and if you know him and you feel that he is a genuine person then only forward that message to somebody else. Otherwise, just read it and forget about it. That will be one way to stop the untrue voices spreading a lot.

Asking for identity while opening the account is a good suggestion by the author and can be thought of. But even on WhatsApp, which will be using your mobile number where your identity is to be provided to the service provider while you are taking that connection, these rumours are being spread. So it may not be a final solution. But it may stop fake accounts.

Treat the other person, the way you wanted to be treated. This statement should be remembered by the people who are doing these things.

Author: Umesh22 Jun 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

I think it is high time that the identification and credential confirmation protocol is made compulsory in the internet social media sites so that neither the person can hide his or her identity nor dare to abuse anyone the way he or she wants. Many simple and innocent people have been targeted by the aggressiveness in social media and it has made their life a nightmare. They cannot do anything to that offender. The cyber crime cells are also not well equipped to take adequate actions as there is no strict regulation there.

This menace of hate and offences in the social media are spoiling the new generation also as the youngsters are joining this trend for the sheer thrill of it without understanding the implications.

It is high time that these issues should be taken at the UN level to curtail these offences by imposing strict regulations for joining and registering in social media. This will facilitate to identify the behaviour and manner of a person effectively before going for any punitive action.

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