Hanging Without A Trial: The Judgment Of Social Media

Posted: September 10, 2015

These days, we almost hang people without a trial in social media. We become the judge, jury, and executioner without really verifying the facts.

My initial days of schooling were in a moffusil town with a military base station on the eastern side of the Bhagirathi River where my father was posted. We had a small  church within the school premises where Sister Cicily, our Principal used to lead the weekly prayers. She was a middle-aged lady with salt and pepper hair partially hidden by her wimple, draped in a starched white saree with light blue border and a crucifix pendant strung to a rosary around her neck. She always wore a magnificent smile on her face that complemented her calm and gentle persona.

Sister Cicily was well regarded by the students and their parents for her day-to-day involvement in the overall development of a student. She knew almost all her students by name and at the end of the academic year; she would personally hand over the report cards to the parent/s along with the class teacher. She was never heard scolding or shouting at her students instead she preferred a counseling session along with the guardian or the class teacher.




I was a very talkative and restless child; to me sitting and eating lunch during the break was such a waste of time. I would rather be running around, jumping in the play area or chasing my friends. We had a huge corridor running across the classrooms where the students used to assemble during the lunch break. I was in class 2 then and we all decided to play football. However for a change not in the playground but on the corridor. I was the leader of the pack and we started tossing the football against the side pillars and pass it on through the corridor.

It got chaotic with students running and chasing the football along the slippery corridor floor.

It got chaotic with students running and chasing the football along the slippery corridor floor and even before the teachers could come and control the situation, the inevitable happened. I was trying to tow the football from my classmate while he was trying to shield it. I pushed him gently and he tripped, the other classmates started laughing at him and in a rage he pushed me so hard that I fell flat on my face. I started bleeding from my mouth, as a tooth was broken, it was not even hurting that much infact I was giggling and the other students were cheering and creating noise. By then Principal Cicily and the other teachers had come, for the first time I saw the stern look on Principal Cicily’s face. She was very firm and asked the students what was happening. Since I was bleeding, my class teacher immediately asked for assistance from the medical room and Principal Cicily wanted to know who did this to me. The rest of the students were so nervous and terrified with her harsh tone that they pointed to the boy who pushed me. The boy was scared and shivering without much fault of his, Principal Cicily said aloud “did you push her?” He fumbled and started crying, with a muted voice said “Yes”

While I was taken to the medical room, Principal Cicily took the boy to her room along with my class teacher for a dose of punishment. It was a day before our summer vacations were to begin so we all lost track of the incident. It was around the same time that my father got a transfer and we had to leave the town. I came back from school and narrated the entire episode to my mother; she was very disappointed with me for not sharing the entire story with Principal Cicily. She said, “Even you are at fault, you started it, you were the one who pushed him to begin with and then he reciprocated. Why did you keep quiet? She said with an assertive voice “You should have spoken up and told the entire thing to Principal Cicily. Concealing information, not speaking up at the right time or blaming the entire thing on the boy for your accident just because you are a girl is been irresponsible and certainly not a good trait.” By then, my little mind had realized the gravity of the situation and already begun to feel guilty. The lesson that my mother taught me that day was engraved in my little mind.

Ma decided to take me to the boy’s house and make me seek an apology from him for making him the culprit.

Ma decided to take me to the boy’s house and make me seek an apology from him for making him the culprit. Both the mothers had a good laugh about it while we played “Chor Police” (Thief and the Police) around the house; we were thick friends as ever. Ma also tried getting in touch with our school, but due to summer vacations, she couldn’t connect with the teachers or my Principal.

The next few days were busy at home with us relocating to another city. I got admission in a new school in the new city, had a new set of teachers but the incident lingered on. I started to miss the warmth and the personal attention that I got in my previous school and more so my teachers and Principal Cicily. Going to school everyday was not as exciting as it used to be.

I decided to write a letter to Principal Cicily narrating the entire episode and seeking her forgiveness. Ma was very encouraging that I confess to her and also share the lesson that I learnt. I remember writing with broken handwriting using an ink pen on an inland letter, which I later glued and posted to my previous school address. Apart from sharing the incident, the letter also had an emotional message with drawings on how I was missing the school, my friends, my teachers and especially her.

I kept waiting for days in anticipation of a response letter from Principal Cicily, which never came, and with time, gradually, the incident faded away.

So why am I recalling the incident after so many years?

Well, recently I was a party to social media frenzy where I saw a girl posting a picture of a boy on a bike.

Well, recently I was a party to social media frenzy where I saw a girl posting a picture of a boy on a bike, who had allegedly misbehaved with her and said bad words. She had posted the picture of the boy asking the social media world to spread the word to help trace him so that he could be brought to justice.

In a jiffy, just like many, I too got swayed with emotions and forwarded the post on my wall without paying any heed to the fact that I didn’t know the girl personally, her intentions or for that matter the credibility of the post. With the power of social media, the boy was traced in no time and the cops took him for interrogation. He gave his statement and his side of the story was recorded which was strikingly different from the one that the girl had said earlier. The following day a few eyewitnesses who were present at the time of the incident read the news that the boy was accused of hurling abuses and threatening the girl. They decided to come out in the open and record their statement; according to the eyewitness, the girl was equally abusive and had showed incident gesture to the boy amidst a crowded signal. According to them the boy and the girl had a tiff over the traffic signal violations however the girl blew it out of proportion and made the boy look like a culprit. Barely two days after the incident was reported, the facts started looking distorted and imbalanced.

Ok, so what’s this recent incident that happened somewhere on the Delhi streets got to do with my recalling the personal experience in school?

The lesson that I learnt that day from my mother just got refreshed; it needed a slight modification though in tandem with the trending online social media lives that we lead these days. Along with playing the gender card, concealing information and not speaking up at the right time, being prejudiced and sharing the information without validating the authenticity should also be considered unethical.

I plead guilty for acting irresponsibly; I got swayed by overwhelming emotions and without knowing the facts.

I plead guilty for acting irresponsibly; I got swayed by overwhelming emotions and without knowing the facts, I jumped into the blame game frenzy and called the boy a creep. Like many, I didn’t bother to validate the authenticity of the information and started blaming the boy.

A few unforeseen incidents have made us cynics; we let our judgments be overruled by emotions and at times put blanket blame on men. Misusing the gender card to our own convenience, whims and fancies and stereotyping a gender or subjecting to public shame is totally unacceptable. There is always more to an incident than just what meets the eye and we, as educated people need to be more responsible and wise with our words and actions. Our radical and impulsive behavior should never decide the fate of a person or tarnish the image even in the slightest way online or otherwise. The egalitarianism values need to be imbibed; we need to sensitize children at an early age and reinforce the same from time to time. That way the gender card would be used for equal opportunity and not to throw the other gender in a bad light. Let this incident set an example to be more responsible, to be fair, to be factual and above all to be sensible online or otherwise and not get swayed by the emotions.

Cover image via Shutterstock

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