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Nepal quake shows social media needs sensitivity lessons: HT poll

The ripples of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal were also felt in the virtual world, where some were left red-faced thanks to their insensitive promos and embarrassing posts on social media. An HT poll showed that readers agreed as 92% of those voted said social media needs lessons in sensitivity.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2015 17:03 IST
Jyoti Sharma Bawa
Jyoti Sharma Bawa
Hindustan Times
Nepal Earthquake,earthquake,social media

Lakshman, 37, isn't the kind of person who will get hurt by a cruel WhatsApp joke. The Nepalese citizen has been in Delhi for 20 years, working hard at odd jobs to earn money for his family back home.

"I came to Delhi as a 17-year-old. I used to wash 100 cars in the morning, take odd driving jobs in the day or any other chore that came my way. I can start living for myself now and my children are getting the education they deserve," he told everybody. On Saturday, an earthquake flattened his village and his children's school.

Right when he was desperately calling up his family a tasteless WhatsApp joke made him angry.

What was funny about a natural calamity that killed thousands and brought a nation to its knees? Social media found lots. From news aggregators telling you about your thoughts as the tremors struck (with help of Bollywood film clips) to online shopping sites peddling everything from sunglasses to clothes, we got a lot of 'earth-shattering' updates from social media. The ripples of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake were felt in the social media as the sheer insensitivity of such jokes/posts left many shocked.

Never to be left behind when it came to cracking a joke at anybody's expense, twitterati blamed the earthquake on Rahul Gandhi's Kedarnath yatra, AAP leader Ashutosh's out-of-control crying, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Metro ride, a Modi wave in Nepal etc.

Not only faceless tweeples, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra was also slammed for tweeting along these lines and had to later apologise. Insensitivity, much?

We thought so and then invited you to weigh in with your opinion. Do you think from rumours to jokes on Nepal quake, does social media need lesson in sensitivity? The answer to this poll was an unequivocal yes from readers.

While 92% respondents answered with a yes, 4.6% said no and the rest said they had no opinion. A total of 1,545 people voted in the poll.

Dutch Police looks for bodies among rubble after the Nepal earthquake.

Anonymity does not mean a lack of accountability. However, that's a dictum we all forget the moment we take on our online personalities. A joke that will never be discussed out aloud at a social gathering is happily shared in a Whatsapp groups. A snide comment that you know will offend people makes for a great tweet.

Our emotional involvement in the social media has grown, the maturity levels have not. Maybe it would be too much to expect internet to be governed by the laws of real life. But next time you make a joke out of a calamity or forward one without thinking, remember there is a human cost to it.

First Published: Apr 29, 2015 15:35 IST