FOLK wisdom has it dead right in preferring complete blindness over oblique vision. The saying holds true if one goes by what passes for news on WhatsApp and other such platforms. Social media these days is awash with information which is best described as information overload.

There is no denying the fact that the widespread use of social media has facilitated the spread of information. The downside is that social media also facilitates the rapid spread of rumours and most of the time the veracity of any piece of information is often difficult to determine in a disaster when people are in a panic situation.

No doubt social media plays an important role in educating its audience and creating awareness, but there should be guidelines and protocols on the dissemination of information. I feel it is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to regulate social media so it remains a useful tool to educate and inform the masses.

This was ably demonstrated by the Chinese government, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international bodies soon after the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan. On being informed by Beijing, the WHO and other reputable organisations took to social media to educate the world community about the coming pandemic and how to stay safe.

Now that a second and more deadly wave of Covid-19 is engulfing the world, it is up to the people to pay heed to the words of caution and save themselves from the virus.

Social media is just a tool, which, when used wisely, can save lives. A scenario where it is being used to spread angst and chaos is the campaign initiated by the losing side in the recently held American presidential election. I have cited this example as a famous Pushto proverb comes to mind, according to which, “by the time the truth comes out, lies will have destroyed many villages”. Do we want that to happen?

Ghazi Khan

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020


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