It’s wise to think twice before you express yourself online because it could offend people’s sensitivities

Where does one draw the line when it comes to acknowledging sensitivities in social media? A touchy conversation begins…

AD: You seem to be spending a lot of time online these days... What's up?

BC: I simply stare at the screen most often, but I was thinking about how dicey it has become to post a message online without offending someone or their beliefs.

AD: What do you mean?

BC: The other day, I saw a post about the pros of being a vegetarian and on impulse, shared it on my Facebook wall.

AD: So?

BC: I have a lot of friends who are non-vegetarians. It’s possible that the post could have put them off.

AD: But...

BC: Suddenly, we seem to have become pretty opinionated about a whole lot of issues — and non-issues — that are hot topics online. From cricket, IPL, politics, elections, corruption, technology and celebrities, to gun laws, healthcare and war, if you're from the West...

AD: What are you implying?

BC: Technology has made today’s world a pretty complicated place to live in — we never had such problems during my times.

AD: Look, technology attempted to give us a networking platform which, unfortunately, has degenerated into a minefield where we need to tread carefully because everyone is reading what we post.

BC: So, what technology giveth, technology taketh away?

AD: But it's only the older lot that picks issues with social media. Look at the younger generation — they don't care. Have you checked out the various memes that do the rounds? They're mostly irreverent and often use filthy language, but no one takes offence.

BC: Are you suggesting that we only discuss frivolous matters and never take a stance in social media?

AD: No, what I’m saying is that we take ourselves too seriously and when things come to a flash point, we blame technology for it.

BC: Take anti-corruption, for instance... Anything I say could offend those who are on the take, so...

AD: It’s quite complicated. Sometimes, when you oppose an opinion online, others could gang up on you and make you feel outshouted and outnumbered. This happens quite frequently in the student community… Cyberbullying has become a constant headache for parents of teens who frequent social media sites.

BC: You're probably referring to hate groups — I'm talking about normal individuals and the way they react to any post that is discordant with their beliefs...

AD: Trolling is another unfortunate outcome of this behaviour as users give vent to their rage — it has even led to suicides amongst the younger generation.

BC: But my opinions could always be deemed offensive by someone on this planet…

AD: The idea is to think twice before you express yourself online because your thoughts will travel zillions of miles the moment you hit the 'Enter' key... Has it become impossible for us to speak our mind without having to put down someone?

BC: Instead of blaming those who post messages, why not turn the focus on the recipients who seem to have lost their tolerance and possibly their sense of humour as well?

AD: The point is, social media gives us the perfect cloak to hide behind and say what we feel like. If we can’t say something in front of a crowd, we shouldn't be saying it online either.

BC: Sometimes I wonder... Technology is supposed to bridge distances, time and generations, but it has only succeeded in polarising us as a community...

AD: Don't blame technology for it — rather, blame the way we use it. Besides, scathing criticism of social figures and administration seems to be permitted in mass media, but not in social media. Can you explain that?

BC: That's simple — people may miss an article in the print media, but will never miss a post on social media.

AD: How do you say that?

BC: Well, we hardly seem to have a few minutes to read newspapers, but when it comes to Facebook, we have the entire working day at our disposal.