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Shashi Tharoor, Sunanda case and the social media backlash

22 January 2014

Prateeksha Saba Sharma

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The Tharoor-Pushkar incidence is an extreme case of how social media can also become fatal, when its interactions reach a point where one person is unable to handle the emotional backlash of another, writes Prateeksha Sharma.

New Delhi: Technology is a good servant and a bad master, and the internet is no exception. But how does it pose a health risk? We all know the impact on body, posture due to prolonged use of computers. But what about impact on interpersonal interactions, apathy about real life issues, the rising crimes, especially against women and children, and the spurt in emotional upheavals in every domain? How many can join the dots here?

For several years research has been pointing out to the impact of social media on interpersonal relationships, especially in families. Increasingly the youth is more addicted to their gadgets and less interested in family communications. There is an obsessive attachment to unknown people on the internet and lesser connection between members of the same family. However, till yet most research has been in the context of youngsters.

Another dimension appears to be at work is that of alienation, which at one time, was a phenomenon that occurred when people moved away from their homes in search for livelihoods, causing fragmentation of families and a demographic transition. Now one does not have to move away from the family to be alienated from the family- a smartphone or social media is enough to do that for you. More people are connected to more and more worldwide and lesser to those around. There is also an increasing tendency for getting emotionally alienated from anything around.

If we only view the recent Tharoor-Pushkar story, it is completely a story of communication/social media and alienation. A couple so publicly falls in love and marries for the world to see- a modern fairytale. Then they communicate repeatedly to the world how much in love they are and make sure they remain ‘visible’. Yet the modern-day obsession with ‘popularity’ means that they constantly want to share everything about their lives with the world around. Soon differences start showing up too.

Looking somberly at this story two options emerge- either the modern middle-aged people do not want to recognize that they are past their teenage, and therefore need to be matured in dealing with relationship issues, rather than making the whole world privy to their personal differences or lust for popularity is such that one can even open the doors of the bedroom for the whole world to watch and participate, instead of seeking professional guidance in sorting out differences.

This brings us to the issue of how social media is going to be one of the biggest health risks in the times to come, for few can estimate how interactions on the internet are impacting mental wellbeing of those involved. The Tharoor-Pushkar incidence is an extreme case of how social media can also become fatal, when its interactions reach a point where one person is unable to handle the emotional backlash of another, and coupled with their own vulnerability, introjects and inflicts self harm, by an overdose of prescription drugs. This is the most that social media can cause damage. So what is the point of any communication if it does not bridge a difference, a distance or mend a broken relationship? Are you using your social media to achieve these objectives?

Prateeksha Sharma is a classical musician and Director, Hamsadhwani Enterprises.

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