There is almost a movement, on social media, to punish those involved in the Earn and Learn Programme and to bring back Sonam Tamang who is on ventilator in a hospital in Japan.
The emotion can be understood.
There are allegations that hundreds of youth sent to Japan were exploited or cheated. Two died, some returned sick, and one is fighting for life. The emotions are overflowing because what is going viral on social media has convinced a good number of netizens. They are convinced because they are not getting the full picture of the story. What is sad is that our people are unthinking.
As fellow citizens, hardships a Bhutanese going through in a foreign land always receive good solidarity, at least on social media. Everybody is ready to join the bandwagon, for or against. In the current case, there is a police investigation, the Office of the Attorney General is looking into another and the government is exploring options to help Sonam Tamang and her parents.
Those unthinkingly enthusiastic over the issue must pause and reflect what they are really up to. At the root of this complication is the herd mentality that the Bhutanese are known for. It may be on social media, but social media is the new platform that replaced the gossip culture.
A brief look at the comments is enough to tell that everyone is thinking alike — no one is really thinking. When there was a call to bring back the sick girl, everybody said she should be brought back. There is also an online petition garnering support.
When the Prime Minister, a doctor, reasoned out on medical grounds why it was not wise to move the “brain dead” patient from a good hospital in Japan to Bhutan, the social media herd agreed with him, even calling to stop thinking of the option. Some apologised for rushing to conclusion. And when a blogger explained the logic from cost (insurance) point of view, the herd followed him with some thanking for the alternative perspective.
What these indicate is lack of reasoning before forming an opinion.
The bigger danger is people succumbing to the toxicity that today seems to be permeating every society due to social media. Bhutanese are gullible and social media could misguide us. It is proven, through studies, that it just takes five percent of people to influence a crowd, while the other 95 percent follow without realising it. This is exactly what is happening here in our social media space.
Some may brush aside social media as another space for hate, negativity or online gossip, but it does influence society and even decision-making process. The herd mentality is not going to help.
There is no doubt we need disagreements and debates to sharpen our views. But those should be based on sound thinking and reasoning.