Saturday, 25 August 2012

Is Social Media the real devil?

This post (part 1) is an attempt to place the Social Media in perspective, for the benefit of our Main Stream Media (MSM) anchors, and other panelists, who love to hit at the Social Media, generally, more so these days, in the context of Assam, law & order, politics, etc., etc. "MSM, the scare mongers?" is Part 2 - it dwells on to the issues of how  MSM anchors, expert panelists, and GoI have considered the Social Media (SM), their intent, some questions on what has gone wrong, and what should be done to retrieve the situation for the benefit of all. Your views are most welcome. 


Since the time violence broke out in Assam sometime in middle of July’12, our #MSM pundits began by calling it violence, riots, then ethnic violence, then, some shouted  communal violence, and, what not! Soon, the details tumbled out, and the inept handling by Congress government in Assam & Congress led UPA government at Centre became public knowledge. The strategy of Government has changed to blame the Internet & Social Media for their failures, to contain violence in Assam, some stray attacks on NE people in other parts of India, and spread of rumors that led to fleeing of about 50000 people to NE areas. To top it all, GoI came up with orders to block websites with ‘inflammatory content’, ‘hate speech’, and attempted to gag some people for spreading (mis)information, rumors, etc. Had they gone after the right ones, there should not have been any problem. But, as usual, it went after the wrong ‘Right’ ones, most of who happen to have nothing do with violence, spread of rumors, or spewing hate! The hidden intent of the rulers thus became visible, due to such callous decisions, executed in a very haphazard manner! To help the government, some spin meisters are working over time in Media shows with select anchors, busy shuttling between studios, and spinning columns for the print, while blog-world is full of both sides of the narrative.

So,a  lot of time has been devoted by MSM, television & print, to discuss the ‘evils of Social Media’. Theories, hypothesis are being spun with such great ease on how the SM  has caused or is causing more law & order problems, cyber war, cyber terrorism, and what not. Listening to them, you should imagine, that millions of Indians who are on Twitter or Facebook are going to go out with their guns, machetes, and what not, after skimming through the messages that are rumors, or, told them of violence! So much for responsible debating on this issue!

I thought, let me make an attempt to clear some clutter about Social Media, for the benefit of our Media Anchors, and, Experts on these panels. This is a bit long column. Hope you will read on until the end!

Since the scope of SM is quite wide, I am restricting this post mainly to Twitter, a leading micro-blogging service. Facebook, Google+, and Orkut offer a different kind of interaction, mainly among those who know each other (or, whom you allow to join your network). Blogs are sites hosted by individuals to express their views, share what they want to (Note: They need not, necessarily, agree with all they put out, when they share 3rd party information (assuming no copyright issues). It should be seen as information sharing on as-is basis, as long as they do NOT morph, edit to alter meaning of the original source content. Ideally, such sharing must provide a URL link to the source. Some may not do, for whatever reasons, best known to them.). More detailed information of what each of these services is available on many sites, tutorials. 

Many of us have heard of the phrase ‘Facebook Nation’. It simply tells you how big is this mass of users is! At the same time, its better to keep in mind that, it’s comprised of lots of  small islands (formed by group of  friends, family members) around each of these users. This is true for others like Google+, Orkut too.

Some facts about Twitter & Facebook:

1. Twitter: Twitter has about 15 Million Indian users and 500+ Million users globally (as of June’12). Though India is the 6th among Twitter user nations, none of its cities fall among the top 20 tweeting cities list! (Source: Semiocast -

It processes about 340+ million tweets per day, globally. It’s roughly about 150 GB data per day. 

2. Facebook: 53 Million Indian users: 48% are between 18-24 years, 28% between 25-34 years age. And, this is not even 5% of India’s population! FB has 900+ Million users globally.

Facebook processes 500+ Tera Bytes of Content daily (300 million photos, 2.5+ billion ‘Like’s. (Facebook’s was of saying I saw it – don’t read it always as ‘like’ in English!)
Facebook runs more than 30000 Servers. Its systems scan 105 terabytes of data every 30 minutes! (Source: TechCrunch:

And, its not for no reason, many experts call Facebook a Nation! At the same time a word of caution. Do not assume all these people on Facebook, are active users. Some big companies goofed up recently in an IPO, and the shocks are still being absorbed by those who suffered it!

Here are some generic observations on Twitter, based on my experience with it. You can call it a fish market (or, see it as, many soap bubble blowers networked), if you wish! Some shops attract more crowd, some very few! Even in shops with huge crowd, it’s not necessary that everyone buys (into) what the shop is selling! So, if you think a tweet as a fish, some may like it, buy (share) it, or totally ignore it! Many a times, a very good (it’s so subjective to say it) tweet finds no takers! Blame it on disinterest of the crowd, or, the timing, or their not-liking it for whatever reasons! There’s no way to know. Also, the Twitter time line is like a flowing river, or, a turbulent sea, depending on the overall activity! So, a tweet is simply swept away in no time, unless a few more like it, share it, reply to it, etc. If not, it’s gone! It stays on your timeline, but the old ones are not that easily accessed, unless some inquisitive follower digs through your TL! So, there’s less likely chance of what was said by you a few hours, or, few days ago, being actively debated.

Note: Those who confuse followers with loyal supporters may please spend a few minutes to read this article from CNET. In one line, for our purposes, it states, Followers don't necessarily equal influence on Twitter! (From: ->

So much of gyan baazi! I had to share the background on the magnitude of Social Media and also place in perspective how information flows there, for the benefit of our debating fraternity on MSM.  

Hope you found the above useful. You may please read part 2 it deals with how India's MSM & the establishment are treating SM. 

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