Saturday, September 15, 2012
Our ruling Under Performance Alliance alliance has a plan up their sleeves. Of banning Social Media. Because they think, social media is the root cause of a lot of rumours. What is unsaid is that it comes in the way of covering up scandals, turning up heat on the media (bowled over by the Congress) and prevents the glorification of the dynasty (raison d’etre of existence of some media outlets).
Claiming social media as the reason for the recent political disturbances and riots, many worthies would like social media to be clamped. Like banning it in certain states for certain durations (read election time) or during communally sensitive times (the rest of the time when we have no elections).
It is also an amazing coincidence that the leading opposition party and a certain Mr. Modi and his supporters are big on social media.
Think about it. If we ban Facebook and Twitter to begin with, will that be an end to rumours? Perhaps not. There are many other social media sites – like Orkut, Myspace and then some. That will have to be banned too. And then there are independent websites which often fake pictures. And then don’t forget that the internet carries this whole message, right? But what about newspapers that may print those pictures? Don’t they deserve to be banned too? And people, real human beings, circulate these very pictures.
And by the way many newspapers commit mistakes (mostly unintentionally, but who knows especially when it comes to politics) while printing. And the next day, they carry an apology of an apology on a forgotten corner of a page – which nobody reads.
Where am I heading? The point being, social media is a small part of rumours. Rumours have been around possibly since the time humans reached a sizeable number and had an evolved mechanism of communication like language. During the NE ‘exodus’ from Bangalore, the security guards at my apartment left not because they received SMS’es or they were on FB/Twitter, but because there were physical threats. And when we spoke to them – they said, we are afraid for our lives, therefore we will leave. The whole debate about social media and SMS ignores the fact that physical threats were also a big part of the shameful return of NE people from various parts of India.
Will banning SMS’es and social media sites let us live in a rumour free society? Unlikely. A few years ago, there was a run on ICICI Bank – once in 2008 and once before. These rumours did not happen due to social media. Word of mouth rumours spread regardless of whether social media exists or it doesn’t. Infact, the opposite is true – that many a mass rumour can be quelled using social media. The KP exodus out of Kashmir happened without any ‘social media’. Many an organized protest and rumour mongering and riot has happened in India way before social media existed in its present form.
Take this great example of the American revolution of Paul Revere – covered by Malcolm Gladwel in his book Tipping Point: On the night of April 18th, 1775, Paul Revere was instructed to ride from Boston to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British Army was marching towards Boston. He set out near midnight for Revere’s now famous 2-hour, 13 mile journey. Along the way to Lexington Revere stopped at numerous small villages to warn the townspeople of the impending threat. In every town he knocked on doors and explained the situation to local villagers. The result was that news of the British troop movements spread like wildfire. Church bells rang. Drums were beat. Revere’s actions are believed to have triggered as many as 40 additional riders were believed to have traveled throughout the surrounding areas on horseback to spread the news. The viral nature of Revere’s message resulted in a well-organized and fierce resistance for the British when they arrived in Lexington. [Link]
What is viral marketing for one, is rumour for another.
Throughout human existence, viral messages have been spreading. Community gatherings are hotspots for rumours. The old chaupal were people gathered under a tree in villages are very effective to spread rumours. Leaflets have been used in the past. Also, you will find black boards in many intersections across the country – with the latest news. Again, great way to spread rumours. And of course, mass media like TV and newspapers have also played their parts in spreading rumours. Telephones incidentally help spread rumours.