I recently forayed into the world of Twitter, and find it hilarious, infuriating and very, very clever on occasion. People crack jokes, commiserate with each other, support others, insult strangers and pick fights. People are rude, vapid, witty, sad. But the best part is that on the internet, one is completely free. Even in this state of ours, where…people…keep an eye on one, the internet is a strangely liberating place. Of course, most desis use it to be borderline psychotic but at least they’re free to do it.

Having a voice is not a power to take lightly. We tend to use social media flippantly, because we take its availability for granted. When dissent begins to happen, the internet is where it begins, and is usually the first thing to go when tyrants try and crush the voice of the people. It’s the reason why we aren’t hearing as much from Sudan as we should, where a people’s revolt is currently underway, in a struggle to remove a military dictator from government. It’s why Whatsapp isn’t allowed in China, the government of which is not kindly disposed towards criticism. It might also be why activist Ali Haider, who has been protesting the absence of his father since he was a child, has returned home safely after a disappearance of his own. A voice, and the use of it, is certainly why Malala Yousafzai was shot, in an attempted murder. It would do us some good to consider the freedoms we enjoy so casually, and one does not necessarily mean this in an army recruitment video way either. One means it in the way that people with privilege don’t use it to look closely at the struggles of others.

Having a voice—being able to write, tweet, broadcast, publish—without fear of being threatened is an enormous privilege now. The dark side to technology in our lives is that it has also provided states and non-state actors like corporations to use these devices to monitor our movement, record conversations and generally contribute to a stealthy system of surveillance on the average person, accessible by anyone with the right kind of influence. Marketing departments might buy this information in order to sell you more thing, in a benign way—it’s not a coincidence that you might be chatting to a friend on Whatsapp about feeling hungry, and your Facebook sidebar showing you food-ordering app advertisement. Our freedom is tenuous and probably more illusory than we think, but as long as we have it, as long as we are writing columns and our phone remains untapped and nobody is reading our e-mails then what are we doing to help? Because ultimately, what good is a voice that goes unheard?

It needn’t be something enormous. We often shy away from change because we think it needs to be a “Grand Gesture”, an earth-shattering, transformative act of courage or rebellion, but not all of us can recite poetry on the top of a car and become the face of a revolution. Not everyone can pull a chiffon dupatta around their carefully pieced-back-together head and advocate for girls’ education. But we can help where we can. We can intervene when someone’s getting shouty in a line at the bank. We can tell the people around us to stop using racist language, or sharing sexist jokes in the family Whatsapp group. We can read, and then educate others about what we learn. The point is really about power, and who holds it. When you have power, what will you do with it? Use it as a weapon, or as an asset? When you have influence, money, clout, whatever kind of it, any amount of it—will you be mindful?

We have so many opportunities for growth, but we use them for destruction instead. It is an endless cycle of temptation and learning. One is often sidetracked by people who scoff that these ideas, dismissing them as hippie hand-wringing, being ‘too sensitive’. But the world is an increasingly unsafe, unknown and dark place—HIV is quietly worming its way into our bodies, the environment is at its worst, there is no water. Now more than ever is it urgent for us to form a collective for the greater good. There was no time more urgent than now to think of the future of humanity, instead of just ourselves. There’s a saying, it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. But if we can’t light a candle, at least we can curse the dark. Sometimes that’s all a voice can do, and it might spark something bigger. But one has to try, and keep trying.

On that note, friends and kind readers, after more than five years it is time to put down the weekly pen for a longer gap, and while I hope to find my byline on these pages for many more years to come, for now it is time for a break. Fare you all well, and thank you for the e-mails and feedback over the years. It has been an honour, and may we all try and speak truth to power each day of our lives.