Social media makes Kashmir youth vulnerable psychologically

Srinagar: Social life of Asim Khan (name changed), an internet game buff, came to a stand-still when his morphed image made rounds on Facebook and Whatsapp.
“I was playing an online game with my classmate, and ended up scoring more than him. It left him furious and we quarrelled,” said the class-10 student.
Next day, his phone was flooded with sarcastic comments, his morphed image and derogatory remarks on his sexuality shocking him.
“It was uploaded on to Facebook and widely shared. A week later, we came to know that it was his classmate’s doing,” his mother said.
The teenager went into a month-long depression, needing counselling to overcome the trauma.
This is no isolated case; teenagers in Kashmir have in general become vulnerable to the negative influence of internet, particularly social media.
“They get easily influenced by online games and applications, because of their impressionable age,” said Psychologist Irfan Fayaz.
“The thrill of winning such games can cause a release of chemicals in their brains giving them a momentary rush of joy.”
Dr Aftab, Sociology Lecturer at Shopian Degree College, said social media was evolving as the main space for kids’ or teens’ social interaction.
“The platforms provide the same social gratification as any real-life interaction. As a result, they get trapped in the virtual identity,” he said.
Easy access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram exposes the teens to cyber bullying.
However, teenagers alone aren’t the victims. Adults, too, are at the receiving end.
Humaira Mir (name changed), a 25-year-old teacher working in a prominent school of the Valley, had her meme created by her students and circulated on Facebook and Instagram.
“My low pitch voice and teaching skills were criticised through this meme,” she said.
Her fellow teachers said quick access to the internet has made it easy for the students “to vilify and pass hate remarks” on their teachers.
“The students unknowingly click pictures of teachers, and make fun behind their backs in an apparent breach of privacy,” a teacher said, adding that the students are becoming too engrossed in the virtual world to attend their lectures.
“I often find them discussing their display pictures on FB and the kind of filters they usually use on their Instagram posts,” said one of her colleagues, with a sigh.
The use of social media among elderly and uneducated people in the Valley has also risen in the recent past.
Apps accessible on the user-friendly smartphones has turned them into compulsive checkers, while most of them kill time by, for instance, scrolling through the videos.
A middle-aged shopkeeper at Goni Khan here, hardly familiar with Android phones, uses social media only to watch short videos to kill boredom.
Saira (name changed), a retired doctor, was made to deactivate FB account by her counsellor after she began to hallucinate about it.
With both her children settled abroad, she would be active on Facebook from morning till evening.
“Despite a severe eye strain, she would use Facebook throughout day and night. She was convinced that Facebook had held her ransom. If she logged out, she and her family would be murdered,” said her husband. “Isolation can drive increased social media usage.”
Militants are also making use of social media to reach out to the people.
Amir (name changed), in his early twenties, uses Youtube largely to watch videos of militants for “thrill”.
“Seeing their long hairdo and rifle-clad bodies leaves me fascinated. My mother sometimes fears that such videos might land me in trouble,” he said with a smile.
For his friends, however, social media is all about befriending new people and earning more followers.
Recently, a teen from Bhejbehara was seen performing a dangerous stunt on a railway track.
The viral video had garnered thousands of views on social media.
The youth was arrested by the police and subsequently released after counselling.
The long friend-list on social media fools the youngsters into believing that they have got a special quality that others lack. “In reality, socializing is far more complicated, as it requires a specific set of communication skills,” said the Psychologist.
As per Dr Aftab, large number of likes, comments, and shares on networking sites give the young people “a false sense of accomplishment”.
“Suddenly, one begins to feel important. It may lead to narcissism and further hamper their personality development.”
Many cases of cheating through social media have also come to the fore, mostly by scamsters who operate through fake accounts.
Official figures reveal that in 2017, 51 cases of cyber-related crimes were witnessed in the state. Forty-eight of them are under investigation.
“The more features and social media sites provide us, the more exposed we become to online crimes and scams. Usually, young people are the target because it is easy to scare them,” said Dr Aftab.

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