A page called Mad Mughal Memes is a fun meme page on Instagram that makes memes and funny posts out of paintings of kings and emperors during the period of India’s Mughal rule. Recently, the page happened to make a post about the Indian ruler Shivaji Bhosale, popularly known as Chhatrapati Shivaji, which triggered a high school going teenage boy to threaten the page with legal action while at the same time abusing it’s content, admin and purpose. The admin, a full grown individual put up a post claiming how the unnecessary virtual battle with a 10th grader had affected his mental health while at the same time putting up an explanatory historical post on the Maratha ruler to clarify facts and how it had meant no disrespect. The teenager felt insulted not because of the post, but because someone in the comments section had referred to the ruler as a “regional leader”.
As our country moves toward an era filled with prejudice, intolerance and heightened historical ignorance, social media provides a ripe platform for young teenagers to learn about history and politics. Be it extreme right wing or extreme left. And all they learn instead, comes to identify simply as propaganda and half-truths with no objective rationalization. There is never the right kind of following in social media unless an individual has attained a certain age of to form their political opinions with a certain degree of knowledge attained.
Our country gives the right to vote at 18 while overlooking it’s duty to provide sufficient objective political education to it’s youth to make it’s choices. A recent CBSE development reduced a considerable chunk of the syllabus in polity and civics. In such a light, the youth of the country stands vulnerable to gaining half baked knowledge about important issues like human rights and the needs and foundations of a democracy. Come social media and the 21st century where every kid has an access to a phone, even as young as a fifth grader. Even if their social media usage can be restricted, YouTube is the most common distraction and time pass for school going kids.
The algorithm of the Tube or the Gram is developed on exploiting attention of young minds in ways that affect them negatively. The idea is to keep them “hooked” to their phones by suggesting videos or reels or vlog posts that are propaganda and half-truths. When it comes to political opinions, this wiring of social media poses worse injuries to the nascent political sensibilities of young people. Anyone and everyone today can post a video about their personal opinion claiming it for the absolute. One doesn’t need to be a political expert to open a YouTube channel with a massive following as long as his/her videos can rile or trigger the audience and the sensibilities s/he targets. Young kids are easily swayed by what is popular or what is ‘trending’. With the advent of a digital era pervading all walks of life, and an increasingly busier generation, parental supervision lessens as phones are good distractions to engage kids in allowing parents the much needed respite to breathe. And the activities of kids online is hardly a matter of concern for parents because online activities can be well guarded and go undetected. Moreover, most users of social media, no matter how young or old are completely different personas offline. Hence a young teenager going and taking part in trolls shaming an actress being falsely tried by the media as a “gold digger” or making communal remarks on a page with a policy to engage politely with its audience, goes unnoticed. The saddest part in all of this is that youngsters are simply acting out the script of ‘cool’ handed out to them through adapting to the school of thought that makes them look best.
Young kids use heavy and serious words with grave connotations like ‘trauma’ or ‘abuse’ in everyday conversation while referring to teachers or parents. The meaning of terms like fascism or nationalism,that should have been taught by textbooks are learnt through Brut videos of certain parliamentarians’ viral speech. Discourses that have taken years of research from individuals specialized in the field, are up for usage as everyday slang. The generation today is ready to read a 300 sentence posts at max, to make itself socially aware. Ideas and discourses are decontextualized, fragmented and put up for enhancing ‘knowledgeability’ and ‘wokery’ for our generation of youngsters. And when the shorter way out is available, the more strenuous burden of texts and books quite obviously fade into uselessness.
While there are definite advantages of an age where knowledge is easier and faster to attain, what matters most is the source from which it is disseminated. Even full grown adults make wobbly choices when it comes to the right leader to follow. Youngsters are too easy prey to this social media agenda. As kids become precocious with regard to the terminologies they use in every day life, the words they choose for expressing themselves, it is essential for parents to restrict or supervise the social media usage of their wards. For what lies at stake is a future nation too impulsive to jump at conclusions and too little foundation to base it’s judgement on.