Opinion

A saner social media in 2016?

Lavanya Narayan | Updated on March 08, 2018 Published on December 30, 2015

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Let’s not fall for just about any rumour that floats in cyberspace

On January 13, 1898, an open letter by French journalist and writer Émile Zola, titled J’accuse…!, was published in the liberal socialist newspaper L’Aurore. In it, Zola brought to light the French government’s anti-Semitism, with specific focus on Alfred Dreyfus, an Army General Staff officer who was sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage, just because he was Jewish. Dreyfus’s case had numerous judicial errors and no solid proof.

Cut to the present. Today, people are ready to believe events without solid proof, except that the medium has changed. The Internet and social media have made it too easy for misinformation to spread. Crocodiles escaping from a reserve during the Chennai floods. Exaggerated fears of another extreme weather event striking the coast. A local bar accused of spiking a drink with a date rape drug. Everything is taken at face value and, often, the swift reactions can needlessly ruin reputations. Has the human race really become that gullible?

Journalists worth their salt would tell you that the first thing they learn is to believe something only if it is backed by pure hard fact. While giving a talk at a J-school in India last year, a journalist stated “if your spouse tells you they love you, verify it!” Sometimes, even an article posted online can be a sticky area. A little over a year ago, an article shared on social media said psychology professionals had determined that homosexuality could be ‘fixed’. A bit of digging revealed that the article was published online by a Pentecostal church in the US. Far from being an objective piece backed by evidence, it used religion as its only proof.

So, take a step back before you believe. There is no single side to any story.

Sub Editor

Published on December 30, 2015
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