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The Tragedy of the Digital Dharmic Commons

We are all products of the digital age now. A significant chunk of our population is connecting to each other via Social Media. Social Media has truly democratised the discourse worldwide as it does not have any gatekeepers. In a way, we all are gatekeepers in the digital world. Every individual tries to connect and synergize with other like-minded folks around the world. If there is a single community/set of people that have benefitted from social media it has to be Hindus (aka Internet Hindus). For long, a large chunk of the Hindu community has felt that the mainstream media has stifled their voice. Digital mediums like Facebook and Twitter have given these Hindus the much-needed platform to express their opinions to a larger audience. But ironically it is this very unfettered freedom that has now subjected Social Media to what I call ” The Tragedy of the Digital Dharmic Commons. ”

Because of a complete lack of oversight and absolute democratisation we have every individual acting in their self-interest. It has created an utterly polluted digital atmosphere where all we have is noise. No one understands what is truly going on. The online discourse has diluted. Mediocrity is the new excellence. In sheer economic terms, this is what you call ” depletion of a shared resource by individuals, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to the group’s long-term best interests,” i.e., the tragedy of the commons.

Just pause for a moment and give it a thought. Do this test on Facebook as well as Twitter. Write a series of informative tweets, for example, write about the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana and explain in a series of tweets how it is going to be a real game changer. Then the very next day write a tweet where you use extremely profane language and go after Narendra Modi/Arvind Kejriwal/Sonia Gandhi depending on your political affiliation. You will notice two things happening:

1. The tweet where you have used profane language against the politician will get an extremely high amount of Retweets/Likes while the series of tweets on the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana might hardly get noticed. You might get lucky if a few people do manage to Retweet/Like them.

2. If you try to convince others to tweet about the topics as mentioned above, you will get a huge number to will join in the tweet fest in abusing the politician but you will hardly get any person to come and talk about the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana.

Says a lot about the online audience. Especially the so-called Internet Hindus. This set of people spent a huge chunk of their lives abusing the mainstream media. Their constant complaint is that the mainstream media has a bias and does not support Hindu issues. They say that the media is extremely anti BJP i.e. their party of choice. But what do they do when they go online? Instead of talking about the achievements of their party of choice or raising issues that affect the Hindu society as a whole they indulge in a “Rant Marathon”.

We’ve become so used to consuming mediocrity. Nowadays you continually meet people who find very basic concepts hard to grasp. The scenario is same on Facebook as well. You’ll write a cheap political post attacking a political outfit & get numerous likes. But share a profound concept and there are no takers. The dilution of discourse in the online world is of ” epic proportions. ” The sillier the quality of your post, the higher will be your percentage of Shares/Likes.

It is a harsh fact and it is very sad indeed. The Digital Commons have personally ensured the dilution and depletion of this commonly shared resource in spite of knowing the consequences. Whenever the resource has been used effectively with a common goal and vision by the Digital Commons, it has yielded tremendous results. For e.g. The Lok Sabha elections of 2014. Everyone had a common goal and they all worked together towards that goal and achieved the desired results.

There are so many intelligent people in the Digital world who can teach a few things to other folks online. But that would become a reality if people got some spare time out of playing ” Mediocrity Mediocrity”. If all the Digital Dharmic Commons can do is abuse Sonia Gandhi & Arvind Kejriwal, then one needs to pity them. It shows their intellectual bankruptcy. Someone needs to tell them how mediocre they are. They are incapable of rising above individuals and discussing ideas. They cry about how the ” Centre ” in the Indian socio-political discourse is on the ” left “. But none of them want to work towards ” The Realignment of the Centre towards the Right “.

Everyone is this country knows what an aam aadmi should do other than the aam aadmi himself. Bit by bit different governments/judiciary/babus take our freedom away. The average Digital Dharmic Common fails to realise the extent to which the government/judiciary/babus interfere in their life. Well, think it is not real? How about these issues:

1. The courts tell Hindus how they should pray and who should get to pray. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-male-or-female-Hindu-a-Hindu-is-a-Hindu-SC-on-allowing-women-into-Sabarimala/articleshow/51814903.cms)

2. A government in Bihar says Hindus should not conduct Havans within certain hours of the day. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/bihar-says-no-to-havans-puja-between-9am-and-6pm-to-avoid-fire-accidents/story-dT2VEk2mURdxbGYEwxq80K.html)

3. A government in Delhi tells private taxi operators like Ola/Uber about how they should charge their customers. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/yes-we-ll-do-it-arvind-kejriwal-on-suspending-surge-pricing-by-ola-uber/story-QUfbtCoggUmY9qqu4WU5mI.html)

While all of this is happening a majority of the Digital Dharmic Commons are involved in cheap political mud slinging. Digital idiots will shout about useless rubbish. What is so special about Sonia Gandhi chor hai? Didn’t the digital masses know that by now? You think shouting Sonia Gandhi chor hai will win you another election? Or is it the easier way out? Because if you had to talk about issues that mattered you would have to do some hard work like reading books?

I understand it is tough to get a large set of scattered people to co-operate on an extremely open-ended platform. How can one avoid the Tragedy of the Digital Dharmic Commons is something we all need to ponder over. Yes, collective action is a very tough goal to achieve, you can also call it utopian. But how unreasonable is it to expect people to think beyond their selfish needs? How do we make the Digital Dharmic Commons realise the importance of collective lobbying on specific issues over useless multi-directional rants? How do we get them to realise what is at stake? These are the questions that we need to ponder as we go forward. Social Media is a great resource. It’s time that the Digital Dharmic commons realise that they have all the necessary tools that can help make the situation better and it is their inability to stand up for ideas they believe in that has led to the dilution and depletion of this great resource.

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