The 21st century (2001 and onwards) is categorized as the 'Age of Information'. This is because the advancements in technology have eased the access to data and information. Also, the fact that technology and information both are the primary driving force of developed economies. Having a status similar to what agriculture had prior to 1700’s and manufacturing industrial sector had between 1700’s to mid 1900’s. Yet in contrast, the modern partnership of technology and information has a broader effect in our daily lives. So as it's a subtle part of modern life and importantly sets the ground for day to day decisions.

Technology is influencing how workplaces, businesses, state departments and academic institutes are looking to shape themselves for the future. Hence, its not a mere helping tool to increase productivity but more importantly an influencer on minds. One such influencer affecting the mass opinion originated after 2005 with the advent of fast speed internet, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Whatsapp and other social media platforms. These increased the outreach of individuals to information and greatly eased the ability to 'fact check' too. Floating one’s point of view such as by viral videos and setting Twitter hashtag trends have a much wider impact. Even the Facebook memes communicate their desired message.

Bottom line, no time previously was as generous towards availability of the resources to remain informative and aware. But did this ease result in a larger percentage of informed and thoughtful individuals as well? And if it increased the willingness to explore, learn and adopt more acceptance of truth? Or is it that the technology driven economy in spite of providing the resources does not necessarily translate into thoughtful minds. But has rather created a reliance of us humans on the most easily available and pleasing piece of information. The purpose of saying this here is not at all to devalue or demonize technology. Rather, challenge the perception that the availability of information in current era is resulting in more thoughtful individuals as well. 

Let me state two reasons that challenge this perception. The first relates to external sources and the second to internal consciousness and judgement. Both of these deal with generic human psychology. The most easily available sources of mass information are the social media and the formal electronic media. Hence, I am addressing them here.

Starting from the social media platforms; fake accounts, artificially escalated video viewership/account followers, edited or dubbed clips, recommended videos are one or another way of affecting the opinions. And articles titled similar to "Did you know a study says so and so" or "Mazeed jan'nay kay liya link per click kijiye" with a catchy thumbnail image and bogus content inside. Made appealing to readers by playing with their instincts. All these in one or another way spread disinformation or the least a low quality of information.

Similarly, this propagation of disinformation in formal electronic media has also found its more effective and subtle ways. Such as consistent populist and rhetoric speeches in current affair programs by the 'moderators', daily hours long talk on irrelevant and distracting topics, having discussion panels consistently with eloquent speakers from group A and impotent speakers from group B, or if not than outnumbering the representation of group B all together. I leave it to the readers to recall examples of such cases from social and formal electronic media they have observed before. So, you and I can rethink of previous such exposures and have a more balanced mindset for the future.     

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly the ease to find the 'desired' information has also helped me and you in finding an article or a video clip supporting our beliefs/thoughts. Without making any further effort to explore, we might go ahead and share it with hundreds if not thousands through the social media. Or bring it up in a gathering of friends. How many times we go on like, "I heard so and so or saw a video clip it said so and so." And after saying it, switch our minds off towards acceptance to anything more. Instead, 'boil inside' to respond quickly to any dissent. With a pre-decided and a rigid mindset, if I am opening a book or hearing to something my mind will automatically filter out the information I was already looking for. And in current age, finding that 'desired and filtered information" without a learning procedure is much easier. While reading this you might be thinking that all of this is quite simple and nothing special here. But wait, the consequences aren’t simple and lets looks into this.

“The greatest friend of truth is time, her greatest enemy is bias (prejudice), and her constant companion is modesty.” - Colton

After 2001, Pakistan faced an issue of a complicated form of social polarization. These divides unfortunately were worsened due to a feel of distrust and uncertainty in the country. Further fueled by conspiracy theories and assumptions. Dissent or difference of opinion are healthy for a society when developed in an environment supportive to reasoning. Unfortunately, the divides mentioned in first line of paragraph did not develop on originality of their thoughts. Or to say more clearly, in an environment supportive to intellectual growth. Rather the dislike of the second group of thought defines the identity of the first group and vice versa.

I define myself in the opposition of so and so people and their thoughts. As a result, political ideologies and social opinions on conservative/liberal, right/left, traditionalist/modernist have little meaning to a large number of people. Rather it's the disillusionment and a personal urge to show opposition towards the other side. This has produced a distasteful environment  which has hindered an environment to develop mutually. With reference to our past, the generation that witnessed the social opinions of 1960’s or 70’s of right and left, how the current divides are not relatable to their predecessors. In a sense, the former had much more intellectual meaning attached to them.

However, fortunately post 2014 the feel of insecurity is largely on the decrease owing to an admirable improvement in security. As far as the physical improvement is concerned, its visible. But importantly there is a collective intellect and awareness aspect of a society which dictates the quality of opinions being formed. The effect on the collective mental status of a society is not easily measurable by numbers or graphs but is more to be felt and observed. So, is this collective intellect and awareness being affected by the two sources mentioned earlier? Externally fed disinformation and lack of internal resolve to look beyond 'desired information'. Because this results in further questions; as a society, are we heading towards a process of intellectual and mental repair? Are the opinions in social, political and religious matters being based more on reasoning and per the text now. Or is it that opinions are being led by emotional speeches and urge to show opposition? Which way are we collectively advancing? And what if the opinion makers of the society are progressing in same direction as well?  

Closing, the term "Haular baazi" a word in our Urdu language can be used to summarize the shallow, lacking reasoning yet loud voices based on selective acceptance of facts, urge to show opposition and a feel of insecurity. The modern age severity of 'Haular baazi' has at least one of its root in the above mentioned reasons; firstly the external abundance of disinformation and secondly the internal peace due to availability of the 'desired information'. The solution to this is in the same tested and eternal principle of adopting fairness whether it’s individually or collectively by a society. And then on this principle of fairness the intellectual learning, reasoning and progress continue to grow positively.

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” - Aristotle

“O you who believe, be upholders of justice - witnesses for Allah, even though against (the interest of) yourselves or the parents, and the relatives. One may be rich or poor, Allah is better caretaker of both. Do not, then, follow your own desires lest you keep away from justice. If you twist or avoid (the evidence), then, Allah is all-aware of what you do.” - Chapter 4 Verse 135.