Image Credits: The Independent
Until now we have witnessed an extremely inhumane situation amidst the clash between Russia and Ukraine, though it was expected that after the involvement of NATO and other western countries in diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine the matter would have been prevented from escalating further, to everyone's disappointment, as of now, there is no turning back.
Concerning this, there are new perspectives on a war that we all have witnessed that come under the umbrella of 'modern-day warfare'. This new technique has majorly disoriented itself from physical acts of power assertion, rather it can be seen manifesting itself in viral social media videos of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy giving his speech at the UN wearing a T-shirt to attain sympathy, by showcasing his needlessness to being in the costume of a 'President' and the urgency the situation demands. Regardless of how politicians or world leaders decide to portray their side to be, it's essential to decode what these virtual images might be concealing.
The Side We Don’t Know!
Like War is a horrendous experience that will open your eyes. Most of us use social media daily in some form or another, but do we truly comprehend the amount of content that we ignorantly keep on swiping through?
Recent studies suggest that we don't. From Work from Home amidst the pandemic to being a fanatic about some web series or web series character, social media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Thanks to social media, ordinary folks on the tips of their fingers, through a few swipes now can engage with celebrities, politicians, and even terrorists. We can’t disagree on the fact that social media has paved the path for innumerable benefactory engagements which were earlier unimaginable. However, with the very robust advantages that are being reaped, it should not be forgotten that the platform also has a grim side to it, especially when it comes to outcrying sensitive subjects like war.
During the Russia-Ukraine conflict, social media remains a hotbed of conflict-related informational updates, with diverse viewpoints, and interrelated tropes . The arena of Social media has been loaded with staunch claims and content from both sides, seldomly unhinged, with the Ukrainian side led by President Zelensky winning the battle of ‘behind the screens’ seemingly as of now.
We saw strategic communications in action at the start of the battle. Unknown attackers leaked an intercepted phone call between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt on Twitter and YouTube.
Unlike previous occurrences, this conflict is taking place in the age where social media reigns, with memes, misinformation campaigns, and Ponzi claims, all contributing to the expanding cyclone of information that misleads, twists, and distorts the realities of the ground, projecting them through the inked lens of vested biases. In addition, the role that social media currently plays in the spread of information, the respective platforms must act quickly and responsibly to prevent any misuse of the reach they offer to their users, for accomplishing nefarious objectives. Evidently, many of the platforms have come forward and implemented measures to address the acclaimed concerns, resulting from certain activities in virtual space. With this aspect being in the limelight, it certainly becomes important for the social media stakeholders to have a keen watch on how their services are harvested.
Modern-Day Warfare (Social Media Influence)
'Is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia the first social media war?'
We have a media front-row seat to the battle, from government representatives providing news updates on Twitter to celebrities and influencers running campaigns to raise awareness about the concerns and atrocities inflicted upon the people at ground zero in Ukraine, sharing and circulating real-time stories from the frontlines. We have access to the intricacies of the war from practically anywhere in the world, and we can "tweet, comment, and share" our thoughts on it in a matter of a few seconds. If we refer to the history of wars and compare it to what is unfolding in the modern circumstances currently in Russia and Ukraine, we can observe the drastic change in the way the war is being portrayed and observed.
Now amidst the war conflict. Social media has played a vital role in setting a point of view, whether it is the pro-Russian elements being active on social media or the empathy of people with Ukraine.
Another explanation is the government of Ukraine's smart use of social media. Ukraine's Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, has taken on Twitter to express himself.
"They assassinate our children; now assassinate their access!" Fedorov used Twitter to demand a digital attack against Russia, tagging Apple CEO Tim Cook. By this example, we can very well witness the active role of social media, by the Ukrainian sources in disseminating their message to the globe.
Fedorov has sent tweets to some of the world's most influential digital companies, requesting to shut down the Russian propaganda, and is dubbed as the 'chief agitator' of an industry that refuses to yield in the face of violence. Fedorov, who went on to thank Elon Musk for donating Starlink internet terminals to keep Ukraine connected, was already considering the next global giant that may assist.
Fedorov's Twitter account, meanwhile, has grown in popularity, with over 186,000 followers up from 98 a year ago.
In a call-to-action video message released on March 6, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged people all over the world to show their support for Ukrainians, saying, "Politicians always follow people, so please speak up, I beg you to speak about Ukraine, go to the main squares of your cities." Support us, demonstrate your resolve, and show your support for Ukraine."
Many Hollywood celebrities, including Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Gigi Hadid, replied with pleas for raising awareness and funds for the protection of Ukrainian refugees escaping the conflict. The couple, who have a combined social media following of more than 75 million people, shared an offer to match donations to Ukrainian refugees up to $1 million, encouraging their fans to help. This shows the connectivity that has been built by the vivid use of social media especially when it comes to bringing influential people into such sensitive topics.
The best part of, modern day social media is that everyone is connected with what’s happening in eastern Europe and that’s a pro and a con for us because just like mentioned above, literally, everyone has the access to social media and this creates a plethora of opportunities for extremist elements to create disharmony, You and I might be seeing a picture on Twitter, showing Russian soldiers torturing a child but when you go for the deep analysis, sometimes the reality is entirely different. Even so many journalists have used this opportunity to curate manipulated information to us, which may not be the case.
Well honestly we can literally do nothing about this but the only thing we can do is to look carefully at what information we are consuming, it’s not about which side you are supporting but actually it is about the way you are knowing the facts of your respective side and then choosing a side.
By Aftab Puttoo
Aftab Puttoo is a passionate YouTuber, Podcaster and a budding writer. He has been in the media niche for the past 5 years, interviewing Bureaucrats, Politicians, Media influencers and Bollywood celebrities.