A virtual world

Jan 12th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan, Social

Are you really laughing when you are writing LOL and do you really mean it when you show love/hate expressions on social media networks? Are the emotions expressed on social media real or fake? These questions pop up on a daily basis asking about the credibility of this virtual world.  The answer is not simple; the feelings expressed can be genuine, forged or a mixture of both.

Virtual world has given us a chance to modify our image; it gives us an opportunity to portray ourselves the way we want to. This image is based on what we actually want to be. It normally reflects the aspirations and desires. It certainly may be not be a real picture, but it is a desirable picture for us. Thus, it is difficult to judge the validity of that picture portrayed on the social media.

There is more to social media then merely a pretty self-picture. Virtual world has given us an opportunity to express our opinions. The opinions which were hidden deep inside our hearts and minds can be expressed more freely now. We want to tell the world what we believe and this results in more difference of opinion. An opinionated society is an appreciable quality but certainly it has led to more disintegration of the society as we haven’t yet learnt how to sacrifice our opinion and unite on a common ground. It has created polarization in the society and everyone is stuck strictly on one extreme or another; thanks to the ‘’freedom of speech’’. Additionally, social media has given us the access to people across the globe and psychographics have certainly become more important than demographics.

In this scenario, it has become very easy to manipulate the situation. Sentimental news can break up across the borders within no time and everybody on the social media will be talking about it. A recent case of Shamsul Anwar is an eye opener. His story (fabricated) was published in a trusted daily newspaper with high sensuality elements in it, targeting the soft hearted people across the country and the news became viral. The authenticity of the news item was not questioned in itself because of the brand names associated with it, the heart wrenching plight of the ‘poor defender of the nation’ paying a ‘high price’ and the ‘deadlines of the abductors’ mentioned in this article. On humanitarian grounds, the people like Marvi Sirmed, Ansar Burney, Awab Alvi and My Bit for Change joined hands for the cause, regardless of their political opinions. Here are some tweets regarding this issue:

‘’marvisirmed Marvi Sirmed
Good progress on #JusticeForShamsulAnwar. Political, military authorities on board. We are now waiting for the abductors’ call @AnsarBurney

marvisirmed Marvi Sirmed
#JusticeForShamsulAnwar Dear all, please use your influence and contacts to help him bit.ly/xxveY8 Buy time, collect money. Whatever

marvisirmed Marvi Sirmed
#JusticeForShamsulAnwar @AnsarBurney is on it. might be traveling to Isd for this. Hope he can help set up an emergency fund too

MyBitforChange My Bit for Change
“RT@AshAijaz: @AnsarBurney May Allah give you courage and accept your efforts. Thank you so much! #JusticeForShamsulAnwar”

AshAijaz Aisha Aijaz
Thinking of Madina Anwar and her distressed family. May Allah protect you and you return safe dear. #JusticeForShamsulAnwar
10 Jan
Retweeted by MyBitforChange

But, unfortunately (or fortunately) the whole case turned out to be a fraud. Now this situation can be looked upon at two different angles. On one side, it’s the problem of social media that anything can become viral without any authenticity or validity associated with it. But on the other hand, it also shows the power of social media to unite the people of different ideologies on a single cause.

Another dimension to this whole episode is that people give more attention to sensuality. It’s a sad reality, my own blog right next to the shamsul anwar’s story, which was about a genuine school system for the poor kids but attracted very few people. It shows the mentality of our society, we focus less on positive things and negative things pop up out of proportion. The baseless story caught hearts of people because it was written in a very sentimental manner. Everybody wanted to contribute to the cause and thus the story became viral.  The freedom of expression and opinion provided by the social media was utilized to its fullest. But I see a ray of hope in all this. If such sentiments can be shown for a fake story, a real problem will attract more people I believe and it surely has, in the past. I believe the emotions expressed on the virtual world were real, though they were exploited badly.

The newspaper and the journalist owe an explanation to the Nation on this issue; but simultaneously we should not feel let down. Rather it was an indication that this nation can become united on humanitarian grounds and dig its pockets in need without a second thought. The spark is already there, it needs to be ignited only. And yes, for all those who sent their monies out should be reminded, their rewards with God are safe according to their intentions.


Muhammad Saad Khan

About the author

Muhammad Saad Khan is a Biomedical Engineer with a diverse background of engineering and management.

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  1. I think the emotions (for the most part) in the virtual world are an expression of what the person is feeling and sometimes the emotions, if powerful enough, can penetrate the hearts of the readers, especially if written tremendously. At least the positive aspect of story was the realization that our nation is not as apathetic as they seem and can be counted on in times of trouble. Also, the power of social media is commendable. How people can be united on a single call is something that is quite astonishing. However, their responsibility to deliver authentic news becomes a matter of prime importance, which they will have to learn to do.

  2. Whats the authenticity of the 2nd news asserting that the first one is fraud?

  3. I fail to comprehend as to how is this story being deemed baseless by the author above,especially being mindful that such incidents are taking place in parts of Pakistan, since the aftermath of the 9/11and the beginning of the so-called hoax war on terror ?…Secondly,when credible source publish a story or report an incident.We the readers have no reason nor means for verifying the same,except to accept them for the time being and wait for events to unfold further with passage of time…However,it is certainly the ethical and moral responsibility of the publisher who initiates the news that they must verify the authenticity and credibility and then report the same for public consumption…I am totally confused.How come the newspaper never verified the story before publishing it ?…This is a unpardonable,the newspaper and the reporter should be taken to task with severe penalty’s.they have destroyed the trust and faith of many who wished to help in all sincerity based on humanitarian grounds…They have made a mockery of humanitarians.Disgustingly painful,indeed! .

  4. The whole unfortunate episode has brought out many positives which should far outweight the negatives; the biggest of which is the power of the social media in mobilising the nation for a good cause in such a short duration. It brought together people from all walks of life irrespective of their religion, caste, political inclination and ideology; all for the sake of humanity and saving a single innocent soul.
    Long live the social media and long live the freedom of speech and democracy!
    There is a light at the end of the tunnel after all

  5. There is something very fishy about this whole affair and possibly has a more deep motives…Mr.Ansar Burney is a very well connected man with all the means at his disposal to had checked/verified the story before responding to it and similarly is Ms.Marvi Sirmid…Makes me wonder how they got duped ?…

  6. Playing with emotions and mind games has always been part and parcel of the fantasy world which the virtual world is the brain child of. The power of words has always proved to be very lethal.
    The person who wrote this story and the one who fabricated it, both did a great job. It did give a major shock to all those who read, or heard about it. Why would one not believe the story which had all the essential ingredients to hit the bulls eye. So the role of social and print media definitely increases many times, by at least trying to authenticate the news which sounds over dramatic But when the warlords of media can get fooled, how the amateurs in the field be put to trail and given the verdict of guilty!

  7. Yes Saad is RT, you may find here real one which endorsed Saad’s point of view

  8. Dear Mr Saad,
    You rightly pointed out the power of social media, but I beg to differ from your observation about media. I believe media is like a mirror that shows society its true face. It is media’s responsibility to tell people what is happening around them and media did this in the case of Shamsul Anwar.
    It was the media which informed the public about this incident. Again it was the media which informed masses that it had proved scam and save people from being looted. So in my opinion media completed its responsibility by saving general public and uncovering the scam.

  9. i have found the episode full of positvity and hope for ourselves…. although the individual had bad intentions yet the good thing is that GOODNESS has prevailed after all. the overwhemling response by the pakistanis in the country and abroad shows the silver lining in these clouds of despair. we, together prioritized the goodness and humanity over the authenticity and verification. the story itself proven a sham is again something good as nobody would like ne 1 to suffer from such misfortune. the individual act of fraud committed by the culprit has brought humiliation to the army aswell whereas the reporter and THE NEWS who has charmed his story with mastery of emotional phrasing should also be penalized for being an accomplise to crime..
    long live GOODNESS…..

  10. The News article by Shakeel Anjum that actually highlighted the issue was published on 10 Jan 2012. The deadline as mentioned by kidnappers was 12 Jan 2012. The appropriate thing to do was to campaign for the issue using the fastest possible means. Twitter helped us by allowing us to directly interact with everybody in power as well as philanthropists. Ansar Burney and Marvi Sirmed responded on the same day. Those who believe that they did not verify the issue are wrong. Many people verified the story, which is why it was so rapidly exposed. We need to understand that our responses, as human beings, were very appropriate and timely. The positivism of the response greatly overshadows any negativism associated with the fraud that this person actually was. I hope that somewhere in The News, somebody is seriously concerned about how such a scam landed in the main-stream media. Pakistan Zindabad!

  11. I may say one thing in short that internet is like a stone, it depends un us how we use it
    we may curve a statue but also hit somebody’s head with a rock.
    I am sure that in 90% of cases internet is only the reflection of real life… can be an instrument of romantic betrayal- but those involved would seek it elsewhere too, can also be an instrument of a fraud, but those fraudulent seek any occasion to cheat, not only via net..
    Very good post.

  12. Excellent article! Such insight! In my humble opinion it’s brilliant. You are a wise man, indeed! At least on this subject you are. Lol! (Yes, I am laughing out loud…to myself)

  13. I ve been a fan of Mr Saad Khan since my Uni time… he is wise man n the thoughts r really amazing, Look guys we r habitual of liking comments on social media networks which we actually don’t like, we express emotions that r nt ours, It hv become our routine life n that happens everywhere! that is d reason we r not happy…we dnt mean it what we do n what we always wanted we don’t even gv a chance to try it! thats d problem of our so called modernization!

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