Controversies are the norm these days and they seem to be unending. Our country has a heightened sense of intolerance about any expression these days and that reflects negatively on all of us as Indians. While there is a worrying pattern what is even more cause for concern is the way social media has allowed everyone to display their true colours. On full public display is uncouth and rude behaviour. The polish and veneer has worn off and people’s real mind-sets are on show.

A few of the reasons for this I feel are that our attention spans are low, and our reaction times are fast. We see something that appears offensive, and then we may not bother learning the details to understand it better; and so we’re quick with our reaction, which starts the wave of extremely intolerant responses. Everyone has an opinion, and social media offers the perfect place to share it.

What also irks me greatly is not the sudden interest, but the sudden declaration of expertise. I’ve found many of my Facebook friends, as well as strangers on public forums, claiming undisputedly accurate opinions on anything and everything without fundamental knowledge. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but that neither warrants making claims without facts nor making racist claims at all.

Social media platforms are being used to spew venom and hatred. It is mind-boggling the way thought processes have taken a turn for the worst and radicals are on a rampage and therefore providing impetus to the wrong kind of people.

To put the icing on the not-so-great-tasting technology cake, another recent study shows that social media makes people much ruder. In that study, a whopping 80% people reported that they experience more rudeness on social media as compared to face-to-face interactions. It’s no surprise, really, because interacting with a screen instead of people also weakens our ability to be compassionate. In fact, studies show that today’s college students are 40% less empathetic than generations before them, and many psychologists and physicians say social media is to blame.

Here’s my take… Not only does social media makes us dumb, depressed, rude and envious, but it also makes us more narcissistic, less productive and shallower. The lesson in all of this? Step away from the computer and get together in person once in a while. Or, as the old saying goes - Everything in Moderation!

The problem is that people take the information they receive through social media at face value. The very fact that we can get information on our computer and our communication systems are getting better and better, people are also ending up with the notion that they don’t need to think and all that all the information available freely will make the decision for them. This completely rules out creativity or using the information in a different way, or new way.

The immediacy provided by social media is available to predators as well as friends. Kids especially are vulnerable to the practice of cyber-bullying in which the perpetrators, anonymously or even posing as people their victims trust, terrorize individuals in front of their peers. The devastation of these online attacks can leave deep mental scars. In several well-publicized cases, victims have even been driven to suicide. The anonymity afforded online can bring out dark impulses that might otherwise be suppressed.

There’s a danger in the internet and social media. The very notion that information is enough, that more-and-more information is enough, that you don’t have to think, you just have to get more information - gets very dangerous. While many businesses use social networking sites to find and communicate with clients, the sites can also prove a great distraction to employees who may show more interest in what their friends are posting than in their work tasks.

I think the solidarity of posting on social media can trick you into thinking it’s OK to post just about anything. We complain, we anonymously bash people, we disrespect people in authority, and we say whatever we think about anyone and everyone, as if they weren’t real people. And we believe we don’t really have to answer for any of it.

When we spend extended time pouring over what others are doing and saying, it draws our attention to all the things we don’t have or are missing out on. It can cause us to question why our lives don’t look the same. Social media can fuel pride and keep you inwardly focused and can quickly become our own podium for self-promotion. We have to ask ourselves what our motivation really is for posting the things that we do.

On the latest Gurmehar Kaur controversy... Reading all the news pieces, Facebook updates, tweets and comments the past few days... I can only say sadly that a majority of Indian men are male chauvinists...patriarchal...narrow-minded...rude...vulgar...and crass. They really need to GROW UP and FAST!! The typical Indian male has been split wide open.

If we are to continue with this trend of intolerance, we are heading the wrong way… Good bye Democracy!

~ Like it or not, we seem to be living in the age of reaction. ~