by Salima Aman
Ever since the current Dharnas commenced in Islamabad from mid-August, an amazing and interesting spectacle is on display all over the social media. It can aptly be called “a war of social network political leaders”; where fighters are we the common people. It takes only a cursory look into the virtual world to find that ‘somewhere everyone seems to be playing a role of politician’. I must state here, right at the beginning, that I am not anti-social media! I believe that it is a very effective and far-reaching medium for social, political and intellectual expression. Obviously many would add ‘emotional expression’ to the list as well and fair enough, it is good to express feelings because social networks are meant for communicating with like-minded individuals. However, the purpose of it goes off track when such mediums are used for engaging in petty political debates and harangues, creating hoopla and disseminating rhetoric. These days whenever I login to Twitter or Facebook, I find the sites stormed with political commentary no matter the level of political understanding of the commentator.
Returning to the Dharnas going on in the capital city, I personally commend and appreciate the efforts of the participants who have been standing their ground against physical, climatic and security odds for so long. They are active contributors and activists to the cause. On the other hand there is another lot of political activists who are only found on social media. They are engaged in what we may call ‘convenient activism’ – sitting in the comfort of their homes; their loud and robust arguments are only pointed at others who do not share their views. Often times I find it very amusing when I see people repeating the same lines and words multiple times as comments in answer to different peoples’ status updates or statements. Everyone thinks of himself as some leader or a revolutionary.
The reason I am bothered by all of this is because I myself use social networking sites and my engagement is limited to connecting with friends and family and learning from others. The way some of us have turned these virtual forums into political battle-zones, where tolerance for others views and rationality is low and arrogance and self-importance is high, is driving many positive users away.
Likewise, the way our youth has been intensely involved in all of it seems to be advancing in the wrong direction. Often, due to their passionate involvement, many youngsters with differing political views can be observed lambasting, abusing and insulting each other. I mean, it is absolutely acceptable and justifiable to have some political inclination but to be parochial is not healthy. Moreover, creating differences among ourselves can only lead our region to further political isolation, which has remained deprived of constitutional rights thus far and we as natives of the area cannot even vote.
The point of this article is that everyone is entitled to an opinion and it is a basic human right to express our opinions freely. It is one of the core values of a democratic society and social media is meant to be a productive avenue for exercising this right. However, we must also be aware of our duty with respect to this right: to tolerate opposing opinions and view-points.