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To tweet or not

To tweet or not

by Sridhar Ekambaram
February 25, 2014

Charlotte Dawson's premature death has sparked a fresh debate on social media's role in someone's death. Let me start off by saying, social media is just a tool. They don't send messages on their own. It is people who use them who send messages.

However, can messages over social media be ever controlled? This needs to be seen from another perspective. Does anyone remember movies where someone is agitated about something, starts putting down thoughts on a paper, but soon discards it to start writing afresh? Those were the days when if you had to express your opinion you had to first write / type it on a paper, would naturally proof read it, then post it by snail mail hoping by the time it reaches your local newspaper office and gets published, the subject has not lost its relevance.

Fast forward to 2014. If you come across any issue you quickly reach for your smartphone (which is anyway right next to you), you are already connected to twitter or facebook, quickly type out your thoughts and at the press of a button your thoughts are out there for everyone to read.

So what is the difference between the two? In the latter, you didn't spend time thinking what and how to write. In your fit of rage, you just typed what came off the top of your head and by the time you calmed down and were able to think straight, your message has been read by numerous people across the globe. In the former, it took time to write what you wanted to, so had plenty of time to think what and how to write, had time to proof read and then decide if it was worth spending on postage to have those thoughts published. Time to think, that is the big difference.

If modern social media lets you put your thoughts at lightning speeds then it is not the fault of that media that a obscene or vulgar message has been sent to someone.

There are ways to combat the growing problem of off the cuff messages sent on modern social media.
• Think before you write. it is always worth spending those few minutes to think if what you are about to send is appropriate or not.
• Proof read before you send. Have you used some word or expression that could sound a bit too harsh?
• Think of the relevance - is there any point sending out messages / thoughts on something that you are likely to be in minority.

And if you happen to receive an abusive message from someone this is what you could do. Have a read. But don't bother replying to it. If you were to reply, there is a big chance you would do so in a fit of rage over what you have just received. The person who sent you that message was probably already in a similar state of mind. Reply to that message will only serve to seek further response and before you know you are in a war of words with the other person, often hurling abusive words. (This is probably what happened in Charlotte's case as well). Even after you have calmed down, just don't reply. By this time, you will realise you had better things to do and could be getting more out of those activities.

Oh yes! also take some time off social media. Don't be hooked on it all the time.

Please see! I do have a social media account. But am not connected to it the whole day. I will connect to it twice or thrice a day, check what has been going on in the world, and take time to decide what to reply if I want to in the first place. And I took the time to write this article and read it out to my wife before "posting" it.

Self control is the key to make sure you don't do something that you are left to regret later on.


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