Killed by Whatsapp? – Dr. Nonlih Chohwanglim, Assistant Professor, Department of English

Today, social media has become the centre of our lives. In fact, what is shared on social media has a huge impact on our lives and our surroundings as well. Alluding to the unfortunate lynching incident on 8th June 2018 at Dokmokla, Karbi Anglong, we learn the importance of understanding how one must be rational and more responsible instead of rashly sharing and spreading information through social media, because what is imprinted once in our mind is near impossible to unlearn.

Killed by Whatsapp?

 In the binary opposition between Learning/Unlearning, ‘Learning’ is generally given the central position. Ever since a human being sees the day, learning is emphasised: nursing, sitting, standing, crawling, walking, physical running, running the race of life…and they say ‘Learning is a lifelong process.’

So, learning seems to be more challenging and an important task than unlearning. And we seldom even consider unlearning and its role in our life. In this article, I would rather emphasise on ‘Unlearning’. From a layman’s perspective, I see the human mind as an enigma, a beautiful puzzle, never ceasing to intrigue and interest. What enters our mind and gets imprinted is very crucial as our mental and physical behaviour is directly linked to it.
We behave, eat, cloth, think and act based on what our mind has been fed and cultivated with. Recently, my grandmother, who is a nonagenarian had a minor fall and hurt her toe. The doctor after an x-ray examination, advised for rest and against massage. The next morning, even before I was awake, her foot was greased with OIL, pulled and pushed and dragged (dramatic!!!). I could not say anything, as the action had already started; gone were the hardboard and crepe bandage. I was told that she is a hardcore believer in Oil, mustard oil to be specific, for any and all purposes; cuts, wounds, sprain, headache, stomach-ache…oil to the rescue. I could understand her trust in the oil. That was what was imprinted in her mind during her young days when medical facilities were not available at the doorstep. So, no matter how much I tried to rationalise with her, the imprint in her mind about the oil could not be “Unlearned.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not protesting against any oil or its usage.
Once a concept/thought/idea enters our mind, to ‘unlearn’ is near to impossibility. We tend to stereotype and tag based on what our mind has been imprinted with. With this, I intend to highlight the danger of imprinting ideas/notions/concepts into the mind. Alluding to the recent unfortunate, uncalled for, a regrettable incident ( on June 8, 2018 at Dokmoka, Karbi Anglong, of losing two aspiring young souls, whose intention was simply to be in the midst of nature and explore it, the improbability of unlearning is evident. An idea was imprinted in the minds of the gathering, which totally blinded any rationality or humanity. Even the most rationalised mind is subjected to ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’. The ‘blame-game’ here cannot undo what has been done. With social media spreading the news at lightning speed, uncountable minds get imprinted with an idea. An idea enveloped with rumour is a tricky and slippery business. When we act and react irrationally based on a rumour imprinted on our minds, can we really claim our Civilisation, Development, Progress and Enlightenment? This is not to be wrongly quoted as discarding alertness or precautions.
As responsible citizens, we so rightly fight for better roads, bridges, salary, jobs and so on. But should our responsible being turn towards the material development alone? In this day where losing sight of mobile phones gives birth to a cyclone of trauma and drama,  where networks going slightly down evokes cries of desperation and plea to heavens; every user irrespective of so many diversities and differences are bombarded with news/ facts/ rumours/truth/fabrication which gets imprinted in the mind. Very few are fortunate to be able to filter the bombardment and reach a sound conclusion. The vast majority being ill-informed draws a different and even dangerous conclusion. Spreading news even with the good intention of informing others at times takes a divergent road leading to unintentional destruction. A sound and rational mind cannot be called  if it fails to have the clarity of the far end of the road. We may be the most educated, polished, cultured, rational people; but if we wrongly insert ideas into layman’s mind leading to dire  consequences, it becomes senseless.
Generally, we fail to pause for a second before sharing and analyzing the post  on social media. Social media has given us a lot of positive influences and many success stories can be traced down to social media.  And we should make sure that social media is explored to our advantage, for our benefits, not destruction. As responsible citizens, cross-examining what we propagate through social media is much called for. It does not stop at posting; it is the beginning of imprinting an idea into several minds. The information stays stubbornly in the mind, strongly resisting erasure. The ideas seem to be shouting, “I have been learnt, I will not be unlearnt”.
So dear readers, could it not begin with you and me, to pause for a moment before we imprint minds with (wrong) ideas and (mis)information. Could we not control what we propagate? Messages of encouragement, love, inspiration, right knowledge, right information and anything positive must be  imprinted positively into countless minds. On the other hand, could we not constantly check our tendency towards ‘copy-paste masters/forwarding messages experts’, ‘confirmatory biases’ and impromptu posting? Could it not be our mission to let no mind be wrongly imprinted, no life is destroyed or lost because of social media? Thus, it is my plea to let us try and kill the very statements such as ‘killed by Whatsapp’. 
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please

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