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All that’s online isn’t gospel

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By Subash Deb

Once during my daily commute to office, I ran into a stranger on a metro who was apparently opinionated about every issue under the sun. ‘Kiya baisaab sahi bola na?’ – ‘Isn’t it right, brother?’, he asked hailing at me. Poor me, clueless about what he meant, I still nodded in the affirmative out of courtesy. As the metro approached the next station, he pointed out that he would get off past 12 more stops. ‘Feel comfortable’, he murmured in my ears even as I tried to catch up with the conversation the gentleman was candidly having with other co-passengers.

The best insight I could take away from their riveting interaction is how digitalization of information could sometimes leave people ill-informed or rather misinformed. The gentleman, purportedly a professional, spoke in both Hindi & English all through our 45-minute journey until he disembarked, and mostly shared his insights about recent happenings that made news. All that I could make out from his monologue is that the person was awfully way off the facts – sometimes flitting between facts and farce, other times combining both to the extent of producing his own version of facts. Well, if truth be told, it’s no fault of the gent. Ironically, yes. Need I say it’s an evolving reality today.

Despite having easy access to information, most people end up being at their wit’s end choosing between parallel narratives, doing the rounds virtually, concerning a particular phenomenon, over and above what the traditional media have to offer. The well-born – in fact the well-meaning man – gets caught between the Truth and the Falsehood, leaving him not uninformed though – that’s for sure – but certainly confused, indecisive and vulnerable to misinformation.

Like a million others, the gentleman too has possibly given in to his laziness prompted by easy and instant information available on a platter. For a way out of his dilemma, as it appears, he eventually submits to his political or ideological orientation to decode the truth from the claims or the counter claims. It’s like if some tits bits align with our inclinations well, so to speak, we tend to accept it as the ultimate truth – gospel – hands down, without questioning the facts of the matter or rather take some time off to cross-check them for accuracy and facts. In our mind space, it’s our chosen ideological Guru that dawns as a path breaker. Doesn’t it insinuate that the erstwhile ingenuous and pure Bhakti of disciples towards their Gurus has muted into something new?

Dare I say it, even the optimum level of our scientific temperament would fail to kill this new form of Bhaktisim. If at all you believe, our Bhaktisim, whether in non-theistic or theistic sense, will never fizzle out from our DNA even if that ensures our betterment – which admittedly has a healthy side too but’s that’s a proposition for another story. This trait of ours, albeit invisible in some, yet invioably strong in most of our mind-sets. Therefore, like the stranger I met, most others have the same tendency to absorb information on the basis of their respective leanings.

And what’s more is that our quest for an answer to something prompts us to research. However, if the scope of research is beset by easy options, one merrily resorts to the latter for the simple fact of comfort and convenience. And who doesn’t like it? It is a proven thing that when a man is left with no answers to confusions in his life, he either invokes God, Guru or consigns himself to some entity that responds faster. The current trend is no different. This may sound weird, yet, if you believe, there is an element of truth in it, which is gradually becoming our reality.

The author is a media professional and can be contacted at [email protected]

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