Twitter is often used as a platform to troll or pull down others, But with the second wave, having left the country reeling under non-stop deaths, many people are using this social media platform to amplify voices of those looking for oxygen cylinders, blood plasma, Remdesivir injections, among other life determining items for family, friends, and complete strangers.
Yet, recently, when Twitter acted on the government’s request of taking down several tweets found to be critical of the Centre’s mismanagement in supplying the aforementioned essentials, it faced severe criticism. But that’s a topic to be addressed another day.
While the amplification is not simple, a range of people are working round-the-clock to spread the requests far and wide. Take the case of Delhi-based professional Tanu Dogra, who recently recovered from Covid. “I easily get 30-40 requests per day, out of which, a dozen and more lay bare in my ‘others’ folder on both Twitter and Instagram. I have a full-time job, so currently I am doubling up as a book publicist and self-appointed social Samaritan for Covid-19 pleas online.”
Dogra classifies the requests she receives in two forms. “One, is the properly detailed requests that include patient name, age, Covid requirement, guardian contact, hospital, O2 levels (if required). For the other requests, we have to go back to the concerned person to complete the details of the patient.” She adds that at times she has had to put out stories/tweets, informing that she is not a physician and/or pharmaceutical professional. “While it may be tacit, but people come with unreal expectations. One cannot entirely blame them, especially when the system is on the brink of a breakdown.”
When the central government failed its citizens, Dogra says, citizenry stepped forward on social media to help. “Social media has come to be the most powerful tool in this pandemic. It has assisted people to secure beds, get information on the availability of Covid-related drugs, oxygen cylinders, ambulances, tips and tricks for home isolation, and even solid contacts for doctor consultations.
Having recently recovered from Covid, I help people with my doctor’s contacts, provide a little know-how to friends who are isolating alone in different cities, helping them identify their symptoms, and some such. But, I have always maintained that this needs to be run by a medical professional.” Constantly amplifying Covid needs can get incredibly overwhelming. “We have lost patients, saved some, so every day is a mixed bag of emotions.” In such moments, she listens to music to calm down.
Dogra’s modus operandi is that as soon as a request is posted on Twitter or Instagram, she tags the local and relevant accounts to maximise the reach. “Besides my home city (Delhi), these sometimes target other cities such as Mumbai, Lucknow, and Kolkata. I have got a lot of help from social media accounts of friends in the government and media such as Abhijeet Dipke, Dilip Pandey, Shaleen Mitra, Surbhi Gupta, Jaideep Pandey, Srinivas; influencers on Instagram like Shraddha Gurung, Onusha Dey.”
Dogra is very happy with the state government. “I message the AAP team members at even 4:00am and get a response. Kudos to their efforts! I always request the party in distress to update us with case movements such that the lead can be closed from our end (we take down the story or tweet) and also inform the myriad health workers and volunteers working tirelessly to generate these leads.”
However, she is quite aware about the grim reality of India, a nation where many don’t have access to a mobile or laptop, or acquainted on how to use these social media platforms. “I often shudder to think how the poor are managing. The ground reality is much harsher than all the pandemonium we see online. My heart aches for them. I want to help them but I’m yet to decrypt how to best do it.”