Trial by social media and public shami-ng
The public feud between Mohammad Shami and his wife Hasin Jahan has yet again highlighted the immense power that social media wields on human lives. Café speaks to a few netizens and finds out what they feel about the use of this potent weapon
Social media shaming is good when done right, it benefits almost everyone. Done wrong, it destroys lives. Sometimes, people are exposed for relatively minor errors of judgment that come to define them for the rest of their lives. Other times, they’re shamed for things they didn’t even do - like the umpteen examples that we have seen in the past, when people have been incorrectly identified as criminals or sexual offenders online.
The last few weeks have given us polarising examples of the colossal effect that social media has over a person. A simple wink has elevated Priya Prakash Warrier from being relatively unknown, to a point where she now reportedly charges Rs 8 lakh per social media post. On the other hand, India pacer Mohammad Shami is finding himself in a tricky situation, courtesy his wife Hasin Jahan who has levelled multiple charges against him including domestic abuse, harassment and match fixing. For the record, we are not defending Shami for what he may or may not have done. But it is only fair to allow the law to take its course, instead of bashing a person online on the basis of assumption. Social media is a double edged sword with an element of exaggeration that can either make or break a life. While a proper trial in court allows the accused to lawfully defend himself, a public trial is devoid of this luxury. The fundamental problem is that many social media shamers don’t fully grasp the power of the medium. Abhilasha Pandit, a content writer explains, “There are millions of Twitter accounts with more than 1,000 followers, and millions on Facebook with more than 500 friends. The owners of those accounts might think they’re just regular people, whispering to a small social circle. But in fact they’re announcing things on a loudspeaker that the entire world can hear.” However, public shaming may not always be bad. In fact, in an organised chaotic setup like India, justice has been served in a lot of cases after the act was caught on camera and published on social media. In what could be an example of this, Melroy Da Silva, a water sports operator uploaded a video clipping on social media claiming that former tourism minister Francisco alias Mickky Pacheco ran over a parachute owned by Da Silva’s company at Betalbatim beach on Sunday. He alleged that as Da Silva confronted Pacheco at a shack at an adjoining beach at Utorda soon after, the latter and his three friends attempted an assault on Da Silva, with the former Minister repeatedly showing him the middle finger. The video not only went viral within no time but also served as fodder for funny memes that are now being circulated on social media, slamming Pacheco for his supposedly insensitive behaviour. So, when is it okay to cyber-shame people and organisations, and when is it unreasonable and ugly? Vinod Nair, a digital marketing professional suggest, “First, we should make sure we have our facts straight. For example, if someone tweets from a verified Twitter account, an event is reported by a legitimate news organisation, or a person is convicted of a crime, it’s safe to assume it happened. But we should never cyber-shame someone unless we’re absolutely certain they’ve done what we’re complaining about.”
“I think social media is robbing us of our empathy, and it’s also robbing us of our ability to distinguish between serious and non-serious wrongdoings. I think we’re forgetting that there are human beings on the other end. I also think that traditional media has contributed to this problem. Social media had the opportunity to do everything better, but in fact we’re just repeating all the same mistakes that the mainstream media does.”
– KAERSH SHINDE, IT professional
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