Social media ‘freedoms’ have turned some into beasts

Left: Pakistani Journalist Shahid Hashmi, Right: Boria Majumdar

-Shahid Hashmi

افکار سے ہے انکی تباہی۔۔۔ رکھتے نہیں جو فکر و تدبر کا سلیقہ ۔۔۔ ہو فکر اگر خام توآزادی افکار ۔۔۔۔ انسان کو حیوان بنانے کا طریقہ


“Freedom of thoughts is their destruction, those who do not have the manners of thought and prudence. If the thought is raw, freedom of thought is the way to turn a man into a beast.” – Allama Iqbal, renowned as one of the great poets of the 20th century.

Nearly a hundred years ago, Iqbal described the value of thinking prudently before expressing your thoughts. Nowadays, people speak without deliberation, criticise without empathy, stalk without a break and hurt without balm.

Twitter, now changed so appropriately to X (a sign of danger), and other social media platforms know no bounds. One is free to pass any judgement, any comment or spew vitriol on anyone. We have come to a stage where, in Iqbal’s words, freedom of expression has turned a human into a beast. Here, the nature of the beast is undefined. It is without limit.      

What happened to Boria Majumdar, our dear friend, journalist, teacher and author, depicts the state of social media and the impact it can have on an individual. In Boria’s own words and of many others, “a social media trial can break you.” It has broken many lives and will continue to be the anathema for many. We usually ignore these innuendoes, turn deaf ears to vitriolic language and don’t heed on filth. Wrong. They go berserk if you ignore.  

Boria and his family suffered for 730 days. People became self-appointed judge, jury and executioner. They just jumped the gun without knowing the extent of the mistake. They just follow celebrities, and think he or she is always correct. That was what happened in Boria’s case. As a quality journalist, compere and analyst, he lost two precious years of his life due to a one-sided and sordid campaign that made him the proverbial bête noire.

I have interacted with Boria many a time, from across the border. Even when tempers flared, I never saw him go beyond the limit. Yes, we have had differences, argued at high pitch, but ended our conversation in smiles, with good words and in a way that left us with another chance to interact. Now, I contribute to RevSportz, and own it as my own.

As a modest and soft-spoken person, someone who advocates peace and friendship, someone who sings when the debate comes to boiling point, I find the current atmosphere hard to cope with. I tweet to appreciate others and try to abstain from criticism. I never see the replies, as I shudder with horror at the possible abuse.

It is the same in journalism, specifically on television. If you tear others apart, misbehave in your comments and blackmail others, you are a superstar. If you speak decently and appreciate good things, organisers don’t take notice. They mostly note criticism and try to pursue those who are against them.  

But when you are taught the true values of journalism, you don’t leave your path. The right path. It may not have as many rewards, but it is gratifying. All religions value humanity and peace. “Be beneficial to others, like the Almighty is to you” was a lesson I was taught in childhood. It still reverberates in my mind, every second of every day.

As Boria rightly pointed out, “The naysayers still won’t care for my side of the story.” Bringing out his side in the form of a book was risk. But this risk was worth taking. He has taken a bold and appropriate step. Sometimes, you just need an adventure to cleanse your reputation.  Integrity is precious. One must safeguard it. At any cost. 

Boria has done just that with his book, Banned: A Social Media Trial. May he recover from the trauma and hold his head high when he tells the story to his grandchildren.

Best of luck, Boria!

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