Social media is degrading language
If history books will ever be rewritten, this age will surely find its mention in golden letters. In this era of technological advancement, social media is the unrivalled king. It is so vast an ocean that it has engulfed the entire humanity into its purview. India is a shining star in the world of Social Media. Today India has 450 million internet users which are approximately 15 per cent of the world's internet user population. Moreover, about 213 million Indians have Facebook accounts, close to 25 million Indians have active Twitter accounts and about 175 million Indians are active WhatsApp users.
More than 65 per cent of our population is below 35 years of age and this is the age group which remains very active on social media. The recent colossal success of Reliance Jio proves the point. The beauty of social media is the liberty of its usage. A child, as well as an adult, enjoys equal privilege. One can unabashedly pour out their heart's desires. This uncontrolled liberty is of grave concern. Of late, it has been seen that the users are crossing all limits in criticising people, the government, institutions, and countries over social media sites. Trolling is the buzzword these days.
Commenting in the name of religion and patriotism is amongst the worst of social media perils. It has been seen that children as young as four or five years have active Facebook and Instagram accounts where they enjoy posting texts and pictures. It is a matter of grave concern that female users suffer the most. If Facebook comments on the posts and replies on the tweets of female celebrities are read, one would hide their face in shame. The users have surpassed all heights of indecency. Some comments are so derogatory that not only does it bring shame to the person and their family but also to the society and country at large.
The larger question is this: is the language on social media reflecting the language of our society? Are we degrading as individuals or are we failing to teach our younger generation the correct language? Our education system needs to look into this aspect very seriously. This ignominious language on social networking sites demeans our progress. Our age old traditions believe in 'Sarvesham Avirodhen' which means we should not hurt anyone even through our words. But today criticising anyone and everyone in the name of religion, gender, and political affiliations is becoming an ideal pass-time for the Indian youth. This shows the growing shallowness of our education system.
The roots of this problem lie in the year 2000. Then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, constituted Birla-Ambani committee to study the reforms in Education. The policy framework formulated by this committee laid stress on making the students a skilled workforce, rather than thinking-questioning rational students. This committee further undermined the importance of subjects like philosophy, history, culture, and literature. For them, language needs to be taught merely as a skill to simply enable the learners to write business letters. The literature component of the language dropped drastically. Secondly, the framework document laid stress on technology rather than science per say. The Research and Development will be based on the expectations of the industry rather than the requirements of the subject or the needs of the knowledge hungry student. The biggest irony is that the Vajpayee government accepted and implemented the postulates of this policy framework. After that, the ten-year rule of the Congress party followed the footsteps of its predecessor. Not only that, both the governments remained silent on publicising the report. This undercurrent marred the education system and language remained the worst sufferer. Albert Einstein rightly said, "Science without religion is lame, Religion without science is blind".
Within a decade, this is showing its results on the language of our youth. The younger generation knows how to write but does not know what to write. The sorry state of wisdom can be seen on social networking sites where users press 'Like' button on posts of demise. Today's social media literacy is equivalent to cultural illiteracy.
WhatsApp being the last nail in the coffin. The circulation of unauthenticated posts and forwarded messages claiming to be true is proving dangerous for our society. This is the prime reason for banning of social media at the times of crises and riots by the administration. This massive consumption of fake knowledge is futile. A WhatsApp message beautifully describes this paradigm – "WhatsApp is teaching the youth a new lesson, man is alienating from society in order to become social".
It is no exaggeration to say that we teachers have to take the driving seat now and bring the situation under control before it's too late. Every school counsellor, language, and social science teacher has to play a crucial role in improving the language of today's younger generation. The time tested cultural and literature component of language and history needs to be inculcated with the values and life skills education. Do teachers need to teach students what to post on social networking sites? How much is too much, remains an age old question which needs to be countered with great zeal by teachers themselves.
(The author is an Educationalist. Views are personal.)