Friday, November 08, 2013

Breaking 'news' on Social media

This article caught my eye because a friend tweeted it about this yesterday.

Last year, when I was going through a social media issue, two people with active Facebook accounts also joined in with wild accusations. One was a cartoonist and another, a guy who called himself an 'investigative journalist', Anbalagan Veerappan. At that time, his profile claimed that he had worked with Sify. It also claimed that he was a real estate agent.

Amongst a lot of things, this guy said he taps into people's phones because it is investigative journalism. Now he has the wherewithal or the authority to tap into phones, (he also said he was tapping my phone and my mom's), is a big question. I, of course, did mention this later to the authorities and we had given screenshots of these threats, to back our complaint. Friends also joined in, some of whom had also worked with Sify, to report his Facebook Page and it was deactivated.

Now it is interesting that this guy's FB post of SB being bought over got noticed by a Bangalore based techie, Suseendran, as reported here by ET and journalists and finally led to an IT department raid.

I am not really a person for conspiracy theories, but if a man like Anbalagan claims to tap people's phones and spread wild rumors which actually do have an repercussion, I am wondering if there are a group of people who randomly write random stories like this.

I am wondering where this leaves us and our personal responsibility before tweeting a news story. Are we now in an age where people crave to be famous/important for a few seconds by breaking news? Even if it is false? It seems like it.

Even in my case, last year, it was a bizarre rumor one guy tweeted, to attract attention, which a cartoonist working with a 'respectable' publication shared without verifying. Clearly, as some informed people watching social media behavior say, it is the age of the "creepy Indian male social media celebrity". I am quoting an informed friend  "Freedom of expression in an immature society makes for a disruptive combination"

I cannot begin to wonder at all the people who said it was 'wrong' to go the authorities.

I am quite sure, this post is like a literal bait for the same trolls all over again. IMO there is more to these tweeters and social media "rowdies" (as they want to proudly call themselves) than meets the eye. Eventually time will tell.

Another way of looking at this could be that there are some people who seem to like the influence, perhaps, or the power, (of sorts) that the few hours of attention that their blogs/FB Pages/Tweets get and take things too far. A case in point is also people who rush to tweet that a celebrity has passed away, when they are still in hospital. I know of several celebrities who have been given RIP messages on twitter when they had completely recovered and were on their way back home.

Sooner or later there will be laws that will be introduced, modified to suit new menaces such as these.

Bottom line - do not trust a social media post blindly. Always verify, double-check. Especially when it involves people, their families and their livelihoods.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A lesson at the goldsmith's workshop.

The other day I visited a goldsmith's store in Mylapore to repair a pendant. In my usual curious self, I pulled out a stool and saw him get to to work, watching him align the pendant on some sort of a white colored, slate-like material, lighting a miniature gas cylinder, lighting it and then directing the but flame through a right-angled metal pipe on the pendant so that the materials fuse. 
As the metal came in contact with fire, I saw it gaining sheen immediately. 
And he said most metals become brighter when they come in contact with fire. 
I wonder if we too are similar in some way. A lot of times when we go through a trial-by-fire sort of a situation, we (at least most of us) come out unscathed, emerging brighter than we were before. 
Maybe there is a lesson to learn from a metal. Or even from a conch shell. Sangu suttaalum venmai tharum.. Have heard this in school when I heard students repeating in chorus after the teacher, from an adjacent classroom. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Rituals and etc

The past several days mom and I have been hearing various anecdotes related to weddings and rituals and customs and practices. 
One of the strangest accounts our therapist told us, where her son-in-law belonging to a smaller town down south had an interesting demand. It was the first Deepavali after the daughter had been married. Hence they had gone for the customary visit and to deliver gifts that are expected of their family. On the day of Deepavali they offered oil for the traditional oil bath in a bronze bowl to the son-in-law and he would just give the bowl a look at it and refuse to take it from them, without giving any reason. "Etti etti paathutte irundhaaru... enna nne sollala she said". The lady then felt something must be wrong and by the time they got it out of him that the oil must be offered to him (as was the custom in their town/family) in a silver bowl, which must contain sesame oil and a gold ring of a certain weight, it was late afternoon.
Being Deepavali, they had to go and ask a jeweler to open the store, buy these in a hurry and give it to him. “Andha aattam poattaaru avaru” she said. She somehow has a very hilarious way of narrating such stories that most of her listeners would be laughing.
What struck me most is (opinion based on personal accounts I have heard) that a lot of people in the lower economic strata have unfair demands on a girl’s family. As a society with its various rungs, don’t we all by default know how much another family of our own strata would be able to afford?
With a wedding, a girls’ family falls into debt, (not from banks mind you, coz banks won't fund them) but with the usual kandhu vaddi, meter vaddi kinda lenders. Small wonder Indians would rather not have girl children, because the society punishes a family that has a girl child. I tweeted about this yesterday and got a few responses on the affluent and the dowry system prevalent there specifically naming some social groups in India. My tweet was more in the lines of people who can ill-afford expenses. 
A marriage, for me, is only a social custom that recognizes a man and a woman as a couple so that may  now legitimately procreate. A social custom 'sanctified' according to various beliefs. 
Various customs and practices have been introduced in society and as it changed some more introduced/eschewed tailoring them to the cultural or societal needs at a given point in time.
Culture/Society is one of the most dynamic aspects IMO, constantly evolving. Nothing is, or can be written in stone. Sati was an accepted and endorsed social custom. The women of a land considered it better to die than be ill-treated by the enemy. How that went on to become an aberration until social activists changed the face of it, we studied in school, albeit briefly.
At some point women were educated too. I am yet to understand when people started saying women no longer need education. However, I presume the upper echelons of most world societies continued to educate their women to a certain extent. 
Somehow this concept of dowry baffles me. How a lot of groups in India believe that, the sole qualification of being a man or having a male child is enough to keep demanding one thing after another of the girl’s family when it comes to marriage. 
Unless the mindsets change, no law or lawmaker can do much, I guess.