Social Media and Fake news

(Surah Hujurat Benefits)

“O you who believe! if a sinful person brings you a report, verify its correctness, lest you should harm a people out of ignorance, and then become remorseful on what you did.” (Surah Al Hujurat, Verse 6)

I believe that media has brought the world closer than ever before. But staying connected on an individual and global level has it’s pros and cons. Where on one side we have access to all forms of knowledge, facts and truth, on the other hand we can become a pray to fabricated or exaggerated news.

We need to understand that media is a very powerful and influential medium. It can make peace and also create chaos. We need to understand that media, just like any other industry is run by individuals or group of individuals – who have their own agenda in doing so. Widely known media groups, those that are famous and looked upon for world news, have their set opinions which they propagate and might even ignore the core aspect that media was created for, which is to project and highlight the truth and facts. 

I was in a habit of believing these mediums every time they came up with any news. It was only when I started exposing myself to other forms of media – those who are not driven by any agenda – but rather want to bring the truth to their audience – it was then that I realized how many fabricated, exaggerated news were being displayed by these media giants. It is important to understand the trends these mediums are trying to set. Media is created to instill a certain message – whether the message is right or wrong one needs to form this opinion on their own. We need to understand what the news is about and who is communicating it to us and come to a conclusion if it is authentic or not. We need to know the face behind the screen to better understand the purpose of any article we are reading.

The best way to judge any media platform is to see if they are questioning their own authorities. If those who own them are also been questioned about their duties, then it means this media platform is genuine.

During COVID-19, the world discovered that social media is a great way for individuals and communities to stay connected even while physically separated. Everyone was using platforms like Facebook and Twitter to provide personal and business updates. COVID-19 marked the first global pandemic in the age of social media. Governments and brands used social media to provide people with a better understanding of events and their impacts.

It helped people to change their lifestyle as soon as the pandemic spread. This was a big achievement on the part of all forms of media.  Everyone was washing their hands intensively and wearing masks everywhere they went. This was all because of the impact of media. It was the constant updates from reliable media groups which made people change their lifestyle in no time.

Unfortunately, some people use media to spread falsehoods. This was seen happening largely during the pandemic as well. Curtailing misinformation becomes vital in this situation and due to the vast sea of information available to us, it was required to do so ourselves. On an individual level we have to figure out what is right and wrong.

It is crucial to differentiate between facts / truth, and misleading, false content. 

Another point I think is important here is mass reaction to any news that comes our way. Like, when a certain news comes our way, the mass reaction to it leads to chaos. If everyone around us is in a state of panic, we needn’t be in the same state. We need to be calm and take action accordingly.

We need to read and educate ourselves and follow an intense mental exercise of critical analysis. Every day we receive a lot of information on various topics and it is our duty to constructively criticize the information we receive so that our thinking is not manipulated.

Media has two types of effect on us – one is brought about by those controlling it which we discussed above. The other effect is on an individual level. People have social media habits that can simultaneously benefit and harm their mental health.

It is common in current times for people to make videos of their lifestyle and display it infront of others. This can have good or bad effect on those perceiving it. It is definitely good to see how others, who are unlike us, live in another part of this world. Their culture, lifestyle is interesting to learn and develops a sense of familiarity which keeps the human race connected. We as humans need it. But on the other hand, these social network platforms can also create a series of unwanted desires. Some people might start thinking that the ‘grass is greener on the other side’. That life is better for them, which is not true. Everyone is going through their share of trials and tribulations. These people or influencers are only highlighting the desirable side of their life or highlighting some interesting aspects of their life. That doesn’t mean we need to have a life like theirs, but it means that they are only sharing their experiences with us and if required we can apply their experiences to our life or not. We don’t need to become like them or have a life like theirs or have everything that they have, to be happy. This is something that we need to be careful about, because people get into depression due to constantly comparing their lives with others.

We need to stop, pause and think – what is important for us.

I believe that all of us need to stay attached to reality. For example, if we know that something is harmful for us, then there is no point trying to find some article which says otherwise. We have to start relying on our inbuilt human instinct which Allah (swt) has instilled in us – it senses what is right and what is wrong – it’s a very important part of human psychology and human nature. We sense danger. We need to rely on that instinct. Even though internet is easily available for us to tell us what to do and how to think and react – not all things we find there are correct or applicable.

When it comes to the concept of receiving news, try to search for a source which gives the most unbiased news and try & understand which media platform propagates what kind of idea. This will help us understand who can give us the most accurate news when it comes to any particular topic.

Thirdly, if faced by a topic where there is less clarity due to restricted information – and it is difficult to decide what is correct – it’s best to wait before coming to a conclusion rather than jumping to what the majority is saying or supporting. Patience is the best form of reaction.

Expose yourself to all types of media, and then decide what is the truth. Read, analyse, be aware and then take sides. People should be self-driven to double check information, therefore limiting damage and spread of false information.