- Anvay Kaanishk-
In this age of interconnectedness, the duality of social media’s influence has never been clearer. It is a platform that connects us to ideas, cultures, and communities across the globe, yet it also harbors the potential to amplify division and strife, especially when ethnic and religious sentiments are manipulated. Recent events in Dharan have thrust this tension into the spotlight, urging us to wield our virtual tools responsibly and mindfully to prevent the unraveling of social harmony.
As writer Rajan Mukarung keenly observes, the ripple effect of social media can no longer be overlooked. He articulates an imperative that resounds deeply within us all: the need to be attuned to the powerful sway of these platforms, for they hold the capacity to both bridge gaps and widen chasms. Mukarung’s call to action is a reminder that, even in the face of provocations, silence can inadvertently lend credence to discord.
Research concurs with this sentiment. A study by the Pew Research Center revealed that misinformation and inflammatory content on social media platforms can amplify existing divisions within society. Our online choices carry weight, capable of shaping the narrative of our communities and even influencing policy decisions. Thus, the onus falls on each of us to tread carefully.
Consider, for instance, the video that circulated depicting the slaughter of a bull in Dharan. A mere piece of content, but one that was weaponized to stoke religious sentiments on one end and to incite outrage on the other. As cognitive psychologist George Lakoff reminds us, the way information is framed can greatly impact the responses it elicits. The manipulation of narratives, especially those involving deeply-held beliefs, can be a catalyst for chaos.
Yet, it’s important to proceed with caution in these discussions. Analyzing the specifics of inflammatory content is counterproductive; it’s our unity that we must elevate, not the divisive narratives that seek to fragment us. Instead, let’s turn our attention to the proactive steps taken by local authorities. The imposition of a 24-hour prohibition order by the Sunsari District Administration Office highlights the commitment to quell unrest before it spirals out of control.
In a heartening display of solidarity, Dharan’s political landscape issued a collective plea. Their appeal, grounded in shared responsibility, is a testament to the desire for peace to prevail. Studies, like the one published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, have shown that effective communication and dialogue are key components in averting violent conflict. Dharan’s plea is an embodiment of this principle, an olive branch extended to counteract the forces seeking to tear the community apart.
Social media’s role in this is pivotal. As the conduit through which messages are amplified, it becomes a space of both responsibility and potential. It’s heartening to witness voices advocating for restraint, empathy, and dialogue. The words of UML secretary Yogesh Bhattarai reflect the power of discourse: “Let’s talk. Go back to your place. And think – is the enemy caste or poverty?” His plea echoes the sentiment of psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who suggests that open-minded conversation is a bridge across ideological divides.
Drawing from a global perspective, the tragic events in Manipur, India, serve as a stark reminder. The ethnic and religious clashes that engulfed the region bear painful echoes to our own situation. As we navigate the contours of identity and belief, we must heed the lessons of history. An analysis by the International Journal of Conflict Management emphasizes the role of leadership in steering diverse communities away from conflict. Dharan’s leaders are indeed embracing this role, and it’s our duty to support them.
In the shadow of potential crisis, Dharan stands as a microcosm of the world at large. In a society rich with diversity, it’s incumbent upon us to foster unity. Let’s nurture a culture of understanding, respect, and dialogue, for these are the foundations of a resilient society. While the immediate crisis may seem quelled, we must not relent in our vigilance. Social media, wielded with wisdom, can be a beacon of hope, a tool to build bridges rather than burn them. In the midst of uncertainty, Dharan’s residents are showing us that harmony can triumph over discord, and it’s a lesson we should carry with us into the world.