Shishir Tripathi | September 1, 2015
It was a caution and solicited advice for all of us- the aspiring journalists. Two years down the line and I realise that social media has grave perils and can tarnish the credibility and reputation of not just journalists, public figures and intellectuals, but of a common man too, if not used with a sense of responsibility.
It was the day when I was graduating from the Express Institute of Media Studies (EXIMS) of The Indian Express. Interacting with students, Shekhar Gupta, former editor of the paper, was talking about the perils of social media. He narrated an interesting incident from his reporting career.
In 1983 while working with India Today, he was doing a cover story on Sunil Gavaskar, who was then at peak of his career. As it was a long feature story, he had to spend many days with Gavaskar.
On one such day when he visited Gavaskar at his home, he saw his young son Rohan playing with a cricket bat left-handed. He asked Gavaskar's wife why has been named Rohan. He was told that Rohan was named after Rohan Kanhai, the great West Indies batsman whom Gavaskar really adored. Gupta in his story wrote that Rohan Gavaskar played left-handed like the West Indies batsman he is named after.
Only later did he realise that Kanhai was a right-handed batsman. He in a lighter vein reminded this to his then editor, who was also present at the gathering, that how he passed the story. He added that for years people use to stop him on airport to correct his mistake. Having told the story he asked the gathering, especially supporters of social media, that what would have happened if the same mistake was made in the present day of 'social media' where news circulates like air.
Social media is infinite space where millions of people interact at one point of time. It has great ability to unleash a movement and spread knowledge. But then, when it is used irresponsibly and more than that when it becomes a forum for senseless activism it becomes a grave threat.
Last week a Delhi girl named Jasleen Kaur accused a Delhi resident, Sarvjeet Singh of harassing and abusing her. The news went viral after the girl posted his picture on the Facebook. There was massive outrage on social media. The 'accused' was not given any chance to speak for himself, to defend himself. He was arrested by police and admonished by people. Later developments revealed that that the man was not at wrong.
If the news would have been published in a newspaper, I am sure it would have not generated this kind of response. But in the age of social media, where everyone with a smart phone is an activist, even a small mistake becomes a heinous crime, with net-activists with tweets and shares, all set to convict and execute the ‘accused’.
Moving beyond the argument as to who was right: Jasleen Kaur-the 'victim' or Sarvjeet Singh- the 'perpetrator', it is time we sit and think, what needs to be done to make social media a more responsible and a sane space.
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