A civil discourse

After the 9/11 attacks in the United States, it’s former President coined the controversial ‘with us or against us’ phrase.

This seems to be emerging social media culture in Bhutan, where there is little space for intelligent and civil discourse.

Instead, it is becoming an increasingly vitriolic space with people lined up for or against certain positions, and the discussions is less about discourse and more about conflict.

It is said that the social media, in some ways, is a reflection of the society and country, and so in that context it is alarming to see the deep divisions and even hatred, at times, over even the most basic issues.

Even if the social media discussions are not a correct reflection of Bhutanese society, it is playing an increasingly important role in not only how Bhutanese think or develop opinions, but also in how we interact with each other.

The divisions and harsh violence we see on social media will not remain restricted to it, but will gradually seep into our real lives in insidious ways.

It is also troubling to see how the people are not able to distinguish between facts and opinion, and how little it takes to get them going down a certain path, as slippery and unsure as it maybe.

The great and hyped good about social media is that it is free from ‘censorship’ and allows for free expression of views.

This maybe the case, but it also ignores the equally great pitfalls of the social media.

In neighboring West Bengal a fake post and doctored pictures created a communal riot affecting thousands. This kind of doctoring of videos, audio, pictures and more importantly facts is also becoming commonplace in Bhutan.

The unhindered and ‘freeness’ of the social media if used intelligently can be a force for great good. Unfortunately there is an increasing number of Bhutanese falling prey to ‘freeness’ in the negative sense of saying anything without accountability and thereby not only violating the rights of others but also dividing the society and nation.

It is disconcerting to see in Bhutan how anti-national propaganda, racism, extreme political divisions, defamation, hyper nationalism, disguised publicity stunts and more are becoming mainstreamed into our social media and our lives.

It may be exhilarating to ride a tiger in the social media or even be one, but one should be aware that there are consequences and impact of every action, and there are times when the tiger can go out of control.

Don’t ask for something if it’s a burden to you if you get it.
Jack Nicholson in Hoffa

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