In his essay My Gentle Readers, P.G. Wodehouse says: I have often felt a little sorry for writers like Cicero who operated in the days before the post office came into existence. For, as everybody knows, an authors success can be estimated by the number of letters he receives from readers.
If Wodehouse lives today, will he be sorry for the writers who operated in the days before the advent of e-mail and social media? He couldnt have even imagined that a day would come when letters will be delivered the moment they are sent.
The problem is what to believe and what not to, as social media are awash with fake, flawed and skewed news and views, and absolute falsity. They make you credulous and frivolous, especially in these days of corona fear and lockdown. It seems that social media killed in-depth reading and desecrated reading into browsing. Many people browse everything superfluous, get accurate knowledge about nothing and propagate the half-truths and absolute falsity through their accounts. One such baseless news is that the novel coronavirus has been cultivated by the Chinese.
As the creator, editor and publisher are the same persons, they can post any stupidity according to their frivolous and credulous nature. Hence, social media have virtually become a social menace. People dont try to see the veracity of what they are posting or sharing. On various platforms, we can see utter nonsense posted and propagated as great discoveries of truth.
The other day, I saw such a post saying earth is not round but flat and there is nothing called the force of gravity. The person calls such proven facts conspiracy theories.
You can use social media to spread all kinds of nonsense; you can instigate violence against the vulnerable by posting rumours as facts on social media; you can aggravate communal and caste animosities by posting biased views and you can use social media to strengthen the age-old gender stereotypes.
The deadly virus forces the world to practise social distancing, but social media has already pushed us into an era of social distancing. We are far from the people around us. We lost social intimacy as social media converted us into islands. Social media put an end to social mingling. We converse with our next-door neighbour on WhatsApp. In the family, each member is an island.
I dont think Wodehouse will be sorry for the writers like him who operated in the pre-social media era.