Like Chennai’s ‘Kathiri’ heat, the huffing and puffing, panting and ranting on the social media have been at an all time high, in the fortnight gone by. A surge of insensitivity and intolerance have left networking platforms with a chequered image and reinforced the need for organisations to put in place a social media policy. Isn’t it strange that it took a spat on Twitter between Aussie opening batsman David Warner and two senior journalists for Cricket Australia, which otherwise has a stringent Code of Conduct, to think of drawing up its social media Dos and Don’ts? From what I’ve heard, the “unbecoming behaviour” of Warner seems to have emanated from a picture of his that could have led to a misconception about a link with an IPL spot fixing suspect. I’m tempted to ask: Who wouldn’t be provoked by such an insinuation? Even Dhoni’s wife Sakshi hasn’t been spared. A file picture of her sitting next to a suspect — Dara Singh’s son has been doing the rounds in both the mainstream and social media. How can the poor lady be expected to know what anyone sitting in the VIP box would be up to after the match? Coming back to Warner, the most acerbic of his tweets was an expression “old fart” directed at one of the veteran cricket writers. The episode has earned the flamboyant batsman a reprimand and also 7000 new followers! So in a cricketing nation where sledging is viewed as tactic, such name calling is taken so seriously!

How I wish some ‘touch me nots’ look at the replies to spiritual messages from the Pope @Pontifex. They are so obscene that I cannot even think of reproducing them here. I wish the Supreme Court, which rightly reminded authorities that arrests for social media content require the nod of senior cops, also allows them to take suo motu cognisance of patently vulgar and blasphemous posts.

The ‘Comments’ pages of some news sites that are linked to the social media are no less outrageous. Unlike the Rule of Law, in the court of public opinion, there is always the presumption of guilt. And no natural justice. Quite like the unwritten code during road accidents, where the bigger vehicle is deemed the offender and the smaller vehicle the victim, a CBI Inspector who was transferred in the wake of serious complaints, chose to level allegations against his boss in the Bansal case. While the junior officer’s petition challenging his transfer — which contained the wild allegations, has been dismissed, spare a thought for the senior officer’s reputation that was tarnished in a particular Comments Section. The accuser was hailed as a ‘hero’, a ‘brave son of India’ and so on; and some reckless souls even went to the extent of prescribing “public flogging” of the DIG. Even after the tribunal’s verdict, those defamatory comments will remain.

The sad reality is that while politicians can tweet away to glory and defend themselves, officers are hamstrung by service rules and are forced to remain ‘caged parrots’ even when they are falsely accused.

Reports that the authorities in India are mooting a desi version of Facebook comes against the backdrop of growing dissatisfaction over the time taken and willingness shown by social media sites to remove objectionable content. An IPS officer and his activist wife have filed a complaint about provocative posts on cow slaughter that offend religious sentiments. In the West, a group of NGOs have signed an open letter to Facebook objecting to a graphic post by an adult who claimed to have had sex with a minor boy.

Poor communicators or those with an agenda end up blaming networking tools. At one level, the social media is as good or bad as you want it to be.

Last week, I wrote about my little son’s illness on my Facebook timeline. Within minutes, I was flooded with likes, get well wishes, prayers, medical advice, calls and even messages about an ‘annadhanam’ conducted for his recovery in a temple. I was touched. My ‘friends’ on the network have made me feel that I have an extended family online.

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