Who knew sending tweets and status updates could cause tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes? Well, we all know cyber bullying is a major modern issue amongst American teenagers and has brought too many college students to points of suicide. Facebook, Twitter; they all have the power to drive someone to madness when all that is wanted is to simply partake in the craze of social media. An especially aggressive and threatening form of cyber bullying forced a mass of terrorized Indians out of their homes two weeks ago and it was definitely not due to an embarrassing Tumblr picture of someone at a high school party.
35,000 students and workers from remote northeast Indian regions like Bangalore, Pune and Chennai returned home this week after leaving their beloved cities because of aggressive threats from Muslim extremists. Civilians received offensive remarks over the Internet from supposed Pakistani Muslims, who threatened to wreak havoc and terror on the once quiet, Indian towns and its people.
The residents in the Assam region were terrorized in a variety of technological forms. From anonymous texts to spiteful Facebook messages, social media was not seen as a, hip, fast, efficient communicating tool, but rather seen as a plague on the Indian communities.
Usually, status updates and sending video clips to your friends is an innocent doing. We thank the Internet for allowing us to talk to our long lost friends or enabling us to scan webpages for those cute, kitten videos we love sharing.
But instances of aggressive cyber bullying have come to the surface too often in the past decade. Arab Spring started it all in 2010. When oppressed civilians living in the Arab World realized the true power of social media, they partook in the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests known as the Arab Spring.
Countries like Libya and Egypt have been crowding news feeds and representing the modern approach to rebellion. It all started with oppressed civilians craving for a revolution. Craving for change. Active blogs and Facebook statuses seemed to be the best thing for immediate communication and perfect place to channel frustrations.
The next thing the world knew, Egyptians were overthrowing governments, Libyans were Tweeting from infuriated, crowded streets and Indian civilians were fearfully fleeing their homes.
India is not dealing with a domestic uprising, but rather, the government is doing everything in its power to protect its people. So much so that over 245 web pages have been blocked and mass texts are banned on cellular servers throughout the nation as a preventative measure. Facebook and YouTube have claimed that they have never taken their non-violence policies as seriously as they are now.
More and more rules may mean more and more unhappy users. Whether it’s in court rooms or online forums, claiming what should and should not be censored on the Internet has emerged as a hot topic. But the more and more webpages become blocked, the less and less power social media will have as well. This will not inhibit revolution but instead, most likely instigate it.
Revolutions may produce negative images of angry mobs and pitchforks. But without social media tools, Tweets would have never caught diplomats’ attention. Ideas may have not been so easily communicated. Democracy would have never been achieved in nations like Libya or Egypt.
People have become so comfortable with the accessibility and freedom that comes along with social media. But this accessibility and freedom of hateful speech has been taken advantage of by people with negative intentions too often. It’s a question of sacrifice; to have the benefits and burdens of social media, or to not have it at all.