SONGSOPTOK : The internet revolution has deeply impacted our modern society that can be compared to the discovery of electricity. Today we can’t think of the internet without the social media. When and how did you first discover the social media?

SWAPAN DEB:  It is probably in the year 2000. I started using internet through mobile GPRS and there were a lots of mobile chatting sites. I found only a few of Indians in these chatting sites but a huge number of people from Philippines, South Africa and Israel were using it. It was not in the form of social media as we are seeing now but there were some open chat rooms. I can clearly remember that a baby from south Africa had fallen from a four storied building and her mother was a friend of mine. I managed a doctor to visit her and take care of the baby by this chatting site immediately.

SONGSOPTOK : As far as interpersonal relationships are concerned, the power of the social media today is undeniable, allowing us to communicate in real time across the globe. What is your opinion about this? What are its advantages & disadvantages?

SWAPAN DEB:  Every invention has the potential to help mankind or to destroy it. It depends on the intention of user. Social media is a great platform to connect to the world. It helps us to embrace people from different background regardless of their caste, nationality, religion and culture.

SONGSOPTOK : We have noticed that social media has become a powerful vector for personal expression and creativity, because we no longer need the approval or approbation to publish. Our creativity has found a new channel for addressing a global audience. What is your opinion about this?

 SWAPAN DEB:  I absolutely agree with that. Do we really need a gatekeeper to give one access to the world of creativity? Social media gives one the independence to feel empowered with their creativity and share it with the world.

SONGSOPTOK : In this context, it is also true that any and everybody today can claim to be a writer, a poet, or an artist on any number of social media. We no longer have a standard for appreciating true talent – a role that was played by editors or different types of experts. What is you point of view? Do you think that the power of social media have served to create more charlatans than proper artists?

SWAPAN DEB:  I do not think so. I believe everyone has the right to express their thoughts and creation. But only ones with real talent get noticed. Mao-tse tung said, “ let hundred flowers bloom, let hundred thoughts participate in a competition”. We should have more trust and respect on the judgement of our readers.

SONGSOPTOK : Would you say that the social media has contributed to bringing societies and cultures across the globe closer? If not, what can be done to make it a more powerful tool?

SWAPAN DEB:  I do feel so. Social media has the potential to bring the world closer and to override the barriers of social, cultural and religious differences.

SONGSOPTOK : Would you say that in general the users of social media are actually aware of its potential, both in the positive and negative sense? In other words, do you think that the average user is aware of the possible reach of social media and the consequences it may have? What is your own experience?

SWAPAN DEB:  I think user need to learn more about the power and also the threats of social media. While we should use Social media to express our thoughts and share our beliefs with the world, we should be more cautious about the misuses. There are many security features that can help users to reduce those threats. People need to be more aware of those features.

SONGSOPTOK : Social media is often considered to be a true reflection of human society. What is your opinion? How would you evaluate the image you see today in the context of the society you live in? How true or false is the reflection?

SWAPAN DEB:  I sometime feel people can be more candid in social media in terms of expressing their thoughts, than in their real life.  In our real life we deal with many constraints. Social media works as a virtual world to give people opportunity to live a life they want to, rather that they are forced to. For example, we see more protests in Social Media that we see in real life. So I would not say social media is a true reflection of human society.

SONGSOPTOK : The advent and the trivialization of social media is today’s society seem to be have erased the difference between virtual and real. Would you agree? What is you own experience?

SWAPAN DEB:  I agree to an extent on your observation. People are more engaged in the virtual world even when around real people. Most dinner tables, now a days, have a family sitting around checking their social media updates rather than connecting with their family or friends and enquiring about the days proceedings. People have lost the will to connect personally as they find more comfort in the confines of the virtual world. Maybe, because the virtual world allows them to express themselves without filters and social norms.

SONGSOPTOK : In your opinion, has social media contributed to breaking down of traditional rules of social relationships? In what way? How would you analyze the impact of social media in this context?

SWAPAN DEB:  Social media has definitely had a big impact on traditional social relationships. You can choose to look at the positive or the negative sides of it, if you really sit down to analyze it. On the other hand, it has limited real time human interaction which existed previously. People are more awkward around each other compared to yesteryears. Everyone has developed a personal space around them and people do not like any encroachment on it. Probably because, they find comfort of social acknowledgement in their virtual lives and their virtual worlds.  Alternatively, social media has brought families and friends who live continents apart closer as well. You can just choose to call your family over skype, whatsapp, FB messenger ( and its all free or very cheap ) or you can just look up their social media updates and get an idea of how their day is going and where they are up to via pictures, tweets, videos, status message updates shared by them. There are always two sides to story, the question is, which side do you want to believe?

SONGSOPTOK : Do you believe that social media can play a constructive role for world peace and unity? Or on the contrary play a totally negative role by fuelling existing conflicts between nations and communities?

SWAPAN DEB:  Social media is definitely a double edged sword and one must use it carefully and judicially. Being a man of positive thoughts, I would rather like to think, social media can be a great harbinger of peace, unity and human collaboration towards common good. Let me provide a small example here; One fine day, I came across a post where a friend shared a post of his friend in dire need of money for treatment of their daughter as they were going through tough phase in life. The bills were piling up and they could not keep up with the expenses. I decided to spend some time on it and monitored the post for a few days. To my utter surprise, there were people who did not know the person in need personally at all but were offering financial and other kind of helps just because the subject touched them all. I myself made a decent monetary contribution to the family in need after verifying the truth behind the unfortunate situation the family was forced into, and I did not know that family at all. What does this tell you? Does it not show the power of social media, where group of unknown people came together to help towards a common good cause?

SONGSOPTOK : How effective can be the role of social media as a tool of protest and action against all sorts of social ills and injustices?

 SWAPAN DEB:  Social media can be a terrific tool to protest and expose wrong doings and all other social ills our society is currently reeling under. However, it does also bring to you only one side of a story. We as humans are quick to jump to conclusions and judge people. You don’t want to label someone as a thief, drunk or eve teaser based on one side of the story. There are people who can cook up stories and false situations just to garner social recognition, money and popularity. There have been quite a few instances of them in the past six months. With great power come great responsibility and its up to us to exercise the power with responsibility.

SONGSOPTOK : Lastly, we would like to know the impact of social media, if any, in your own life. What kind of journey has it been? What are your own expectations about the evolution of social media?

 SWAPAN DEB:  I must admit, I spend half of my day on the web either reading up new things or visiting various social media platforms to catch a glimpse of the ever evolving virtual world that encompasses and captivates our society and fellow human beings. I personally have gained quite a few friends and accomplishes over a period of time, thanks to Facebook and various other social media communities. I would consider social media to be a boon as long as people do not forget their roots and also try to enjoy a life beyond and outside the virtual world. I would not be surprised if in the near future, literature, education, medical science, sport and all other segments of our lives find their way into the world of social media and all social transactions take place on it as well. Only time will tell if that takes the race forward or if it limits our social senses and makes us human islands incapable of real human interactions and emotions.



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