Millennium Post

Social media lifelines

In the second wave of Covid-19, social media is playing an indomitable role in directing urgent help to the needy

Social media lifelines

What a week it has been! The Covid-19 second wave is crushing India in its inexorable march. Lives, including many young ones, are being cruelly snuffed out by this deadly, possibly triple mutant virus, wreaking havoc on our population. It's been a sobering week devoid of the exuberance that we felt at the perceived-to-be receding virus. What a human foible it has been that has led to heart-breaking tragedies!

Everywhere we turn, there is no escaping the virus. Friends, family, acquaintances all have it, most unable to even test themselves. But that's the least of the worries on our plates. There are much more urgent, pressing matters of life and death to be dealt with. And at a time when hospital beds, oxygen, ventilators, and even medicines are in short supply, it's that old, familiar friend, hitherto used for whiling away time that has been most effectively used — social media. The many platforms of social media have emerged as India's go-to place to seek help, and it's often the kindness of complete strangers that has helped save lives.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are flooded with cries of help. From information about medical assistance and where to find oxygen supply to even providing food for Covid-ridden, homebound patients, social media is touching myriad lives, while also utilising the much-demonized toolkit to the best effect, in these torrid times. My friend in Mumbai and I are sharing notes and contacts on how to arrange oxygen should our senior citizens parents require it on short notice. Another alumni group has set up, with the help of digital tools, a support group that will aid those in need. There are scores of online saviours who at a time of staying home and remaining socially distant, are reaching out through online means.

There is no time for annoying 'good morning' forwards, when the need for plasma or blood takes precedence. Numerous social media influencers have been using their follower strength to spread information and direct help to devastated families while spreading awareness of Covid-related resources. I have often scoffed at the shallow use of social media by all of us, me included, wherein social media platforms are used for their vanity value. Alluring pictures from a recent beach vacation or virtual gloating over a work achievement — we, the constantly broadcasting generation, have exploited social media to feed our own egos and show off a life that we hope is better than others. Sure, we also spread awareness, knowledge, and opinions on burning issues on social media but really, no other time has social media served the greater public good than now. Today, social media is a Covid-19 lifeline.

But not all is good. There are enough perverts even during a time like this. Many women, who circulated their telephone numbers, seeking help of some sort, have had their inboxes swamped with porn and sexually explicit messages. Also on queue are fraudsters looking to dupe people in dire need. Some good Samaritans are hard at work fact-checking resource information that is doing the rounds.

For us, this year is a worse version of last year; a déjà vu that is deeply distressing; a nightmare that seems never-ending. There is no sight of an end to the misery as we hear that we are still far from the Covid peak in the second wave by a couple of weeks. Even as we dare to be brave the air-borne virus and step out for that crucial vaccine, there are doubts about its efficacy. How worse can the situation get? Will the virus infect our loved ones next? How do we keep everyone safe? Anxiety and fear have engulfed too many of us and the constant stream of unstoppable human loss turns every day darker. The only consolation that we can have is that should calamity strike, we can hope for help from a bunch of virtual strangers who are ready to help. In the end, it is people helping people, a virtual community of outsiders who are playing heroes. When all this is behind us, as I'm sure it will be, let us remember this kinship that we feel with those whom we don't even know. They helped in spite of their religious beliefs and political dogmas; it was one human being helping another selflessly. Let's remember that.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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