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Social Media Extremism : What can a responsible citizen do?

How social media amplifies both information and misinformation in society

A few days ago, I got a Whatsapp message from my cousin who studies in class 11th. It started with on a fearful note, asked the listeners to forward the message to 10 people before listening ahead and it went on to describe a cliched propaganda stating threat to Hinduism due to religious conversions. It was a marketing push of 'Love Jihad' through informal channels. Everyone who is reading this writeup would have received forwards stating 'Send this message to 10 different people'.

It was one of the examples of how social media can be abused for social, political and religious propaganda. One of the reasons why this flourishes is because a common man is not habitual of verifying any information that is put in front of him/her. Misinformation is contagious as it has an element of fear, anger or awe. In the present world, if it is easy to spread information, it is easier to spread misinformation. There are various examples such as spread of religious animosity over social media, NE people fleeing Bangalore due to hoax and increasing cultural intolerance.

Religious conversions have always been a debatable issue. Social media has become a favoured place to spread animosity between different religious sects. Mahatma Gandhi mentioned in his book, "My Experiments with Truth" that most of the people in the world follow religion out of fear of God. He also said that all the religions can be avenues to same God. If you wish to convert to another religion for religious reasons, you shall study all the religions thoroughly in the first place. As per my experience, very few people do that. Therefore, in most of the cases, the concepts of forced religious conversions and reconversions can either be economic, social or political but not religious per se.

Therefore, it can be easily concluded that the combination of propagation of false information, it's spread through modern technologies and nonchalance and careless attitude of people can be a deadly combination for the future of our society. It was never easy to keep our free and diverse society glued together and walk towards political, social and economic development. False propaganda and public display of intolerance makes it even harder.

As per our Fundamental Duties, we shall strive "to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform". Let us be alert and active and not be fooled by the forces that are dividing our society for their personal ambitions. Let us teach our brethren the benefits of verifying the facts before believing in it. Let us stand for the diverse India that we are proud of!

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