Lt Col Niranjan, a young man of 34, lost his life defending his country and its citizens against terrorists last week. He left behind his parents, young wife and his two-year-old daughter, Vismaya. We've seen people on social media pay their respects, but now they'll go back to spreading hate in the name of religion, politics and nation. The government has announced a compensation package for the family, had a 21-gun salute for Niranjan's funeral and now their job is done.
Now that the operation is over and the follow-up drama is over, shall we think of the little girl who lost her father? As a father of two, it breaks my heart to think of her growing up without him. She's not the only one who has been in that predicament of course. We have seen scores of pictures and videos over the last 20 years of various military personnel losing their lives in the service of the nation.
Take a cue from our soldiers, who leave their religious identities behind and operate with a common national identity.
I have started to question why only soldiers have to take care of their country. Can we civilians not defend our country and what it stands for too, starting with the virtual battlefield? Here are three suggestions.
1. Stop posting hate messages based on religion
Much of the virulence on social media revolves around religion. When I open Facebook, I see that at least 10% of the posts are about whose religion is superior or inferior. Faith is a deeply personal matter and the best thing that you can do is to actually practice the moral ideals that are prescribed by your religion instead of engaging in contentious debates (usually without any scriptural knowledge). Take a cue from our soldiers, who leave their religious identities behind and operate with a common national identity.
2. Stop posting hate messages based on politics
Another common theme is the rapid firing of insults between supporters of opposing political ideologies. We are prone to sacrificing logic and factual accuracy just to make a point, to score a cheap win. For example, a friend of mine posted a picture of a Guinness Book of World records certificate announcing Kannada is the oldest language in the world. I went to the Guinness website and realised that the "certificate" was fake. How much time would it take to go and verify facts before we share them? Most of us can't be bothered. There are kids, students who are watching these arguments online and what will they learn from us? The soldiers leave all their political identities behind and operate with a common national identity.
Messages of hate fuel the divisive agenda of terrorists and give our own nation a bad name.
3. Stop posting hate messages based on nation
The third common theme that we encounter is hate messages between countries, especially between India and Pakistan. In a globalised world, every country is dependent on others for its survival. The world is more connected than ever and every citizen is an ambassador in the borderless world of social media. Such messages of hate fuel the divisive agenda of terrorists and give our own nation a bad name. A country is judged by how its people behave with tourists and by how its netizens behave with strangers on the internet.
Technology is a powerful tool and we all know that the pen is mightier than the sword. Social media gives us unprecedented power to cross borders, voice opinions and engage in arguments with anyone from anywhere. But it comes with a huge responsibility. The world is more interconnected than ever. Every citizen who wants his country to do well and who wants to show his patriotism needs to use this mighty weapon in their hands in a very responsible way because each of their actions and messages have far-reaching implications. The best way we can show our patriotism to our country is by being responsible on social media.
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