Impact of Social Media in Bhutan

Over the years, with the rapid growth and usage of social media in Bhutan, its interactive features and no holds barred nature has ensured that social media is now fast becoming a very popular source of news and views.

Impact of Social Media in Bhutan. (Source: http://enodoglobal.com)

 

By Sanjo Jendayi | The Bhutanese

Before social media or the media ever reached Bhutan, the country had a rich oral culture of not only passing down traditional stories, religious tales and local folklore but it was also an unofficial means of transmitting news and views.

The media came to Bhutan along with modernisation and soon professional journalists and verified news became the main source of news in Bhutan.

Social media overtook oral tradition in Bhutan

Over the years, with the rapid growth and usage of social media in Bhutan, its interactive features and no holds barred nature has ensured that social media is now fast becoming a very popular source of news and views.

However, just like the rest of the world and with two major elections looming this year, Bhutan is grappling with the challenge of handling fake news on social media as well as highly divisive rhetoric circulating online.

Bhutan’s oral culture suffered from occasional exaggerations or even rumours in response to certain popular fears and situations. The mass media occasionally makes factual errors and is also accused at times of not getting all the sides of a story.

The perils of fake news

However, social media is turning out to be an entirely different and much more dangerous ‘animal’. It is not only being used to deliberately create and spread fake news but it has fertile ground to grow in a country where the political culture is becoming increasingly partisan, extreme, intolerant and violent.

Death threats, threats of physical violence, sexual violence and maligning of each other due to mere political differences is becoming the norm in our social media.

Influence of fake news on Bhutanese youth

A large number of Bhutanese, including the more gullible young, now take their news and views from Facebook pages that are an open sewer of propaganda, fake news, lies and hate. What makes it worse is that an increasing number of youth have been influenced by such news and even participated in it.

The tragedy here is that political forces that were actually unleased in the form of politicians and parties to give shape to and strengthen Bhutanese democracy are the worst offenders encouraging such behaviour, both overtly and covertly.

Bhutan is a nation of around 700,000 people surrounded by 1.2 bn people in the south and 1.3 bn people in the north.

It does not require much intelligence or imagination to figure out what can happen to a small and divided nation and its people in a neighbourhood of competing giants.

“Social media is the only vehicle I know that progresses forward while the passengers regress.” 


                                                                                               Sanjo Jendayi

 

This article first appeared in The Bhutanese and has been edited for the New Bhutan Times.

 

 


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