Monday, September 19, 2011

Virtual Venom

Letter writing is dead. The sleek mobile has been toppled from its perch. The formal e-mails have had their day. Cyber space, the new canvass for communication with varied hues now provides a platform to sneer and to cheer alike.

Of all the seductions of web, perhaps the most enticing for the angry user is that it allows fury to be funneled via the virtual tunnel. And since controversy sells, the shortest route to fame is put your foot in your angry mouth, albeit in style. A fuming damsel from the south became the uncrowned queen of blogdom, when she threatened to shove coconuts down the Delhi boys until coir sprouted from you know where. Having initiated a slanging match on her blog, it was easy to lure the argumentative ones in a free for all. The national daily rushed to publish the blog post in an attempt to fuel the controversy and make hay while the angry opined.
Come to think of it, it is the abuser who falls from the high pedestal, not the abused. That brings me to the question: Is cyber rage aiding in catharsis, or is it creating an abusive intolerant society?

Like any other the web is not infallible. More so when one is entering a world of strangers, and is not quite ready for it. Two thirteen year olds living in a metro typed, ‘What’s up?’ to initiate a chat with their Principal. After a while, they ended the chat with, ‘F***k off’ and ‘Go to hell’. A furious Principal suspended both the boys.

Lately, cyber space has become a favorite arena for anonymous abusive punches and slanging matches. The web becomes even more precarious when it provides a platform to shout the loudest without any accountability. Rewind the reel to your hostel days when we considered thrashing the warden by throwing a blanket on him, under the cover of darkness. Veiled in a mask, it is easy to vent anger against establishment. That explains the ugly graffiti staring at us from the innards of elevators, monuments and public toilets. The scribblers cannot be held accountable even though they draw graphic anatomies with the names of their lusted or hated ones. The lack of accountability provides a fillip to coward frustrated souls.

The cyber anger is mostly directed against celebrities, powerful and of course the favorite whipping boys – politicians. As a simple mortal I am yet to receive a malicious comment or abuse, but then I have carefully avoided contentious topics. The sweet bouquets will almost immediately become toxic brickbats if the topic of discussion is controversial. No matter what I write on the ‘reservation policy’ in education, or on religion, a section of readers is bound to get offended. Dissent is acceptable but abuse is not. Take the most recent events of deification of a mild mannered but strong willed Gandhian. If you are not in agreement with the popular sentiment on the street then you will be doused with vitriol in cyber space.

The anonymous acerbic voices become the judge, jury and the defendant and have moments of collective catharsis on the web. Even at the risk of bristling like an old crow, I am concerned about the age of rage. Abusive slanging matches on twitter, blogs, and chat rooms are signs of an ailing society. Above all it has to be said that anonymous abuse is the weapon of the vulgar; not the civilized.


  1. hii
    u have taken a very relevant point. Vulgarity has become a major issue. Not just from public forums but even to TV comedy shows, all show extremely burlesque things that can literally annoy any 'sharif aadmi'. The teenagers esp those residing in metros are yet to learn even the most basic manners. In a nutshell, our society, once respected for its deeply ingrained values is fast going towards degradation.

  2. not to mention the "replies" to these rage blog posts! unreal!..but well said..bang on

  3. Exactly !

    Ours has become a highly abusive intolerant society. And it shouldn't be a surprise (rather, shock) to find people abusing at will at whoever and whatever on cyber-space just because they don't agree to a particular viewpoint.

    People just don't know how to put across their dis-agreement and they rather resort to abusing which actually portrays that they don't have a mind good enough to analyse and dis-agree.

    With the extreme 'tolerance' to the most disgusting of spoken language in our everyday lives, (exemplified to the maniacal fan-following of movies like Delhi belly) it is expected that cyber-space (with no real checks on user-behavior) is an easy medium to show their frustration.

    One thing I should have added to my latest post is how us Indians take serious objections to anyone questioning our culture. But how we don't have the remotest of clues about how to be cultured or even civilised.

  4. Absolutely.I was very upset,a few days back a read a tweet full of vulgarity and was full of abusive language.
    What can one do with such accounts. Block them

  5. Alka a very thoghtful blog. Growing intolerance and the lack of values being handed down to younger generation are at the root of this situation! Visit a country like Israel to see how these values are ingrained in the character to build a good society who rest of the world fear and respect!

  6. I still don't understand why there was such furore over a blogpost by a nobody as blogosphere went absolutely crazy. There have been more offensive writing in the past against communities and people, but nothing has evoked so much reaction. one could call this a 'virtual' riot, maybe?

    But yes, such stardom is fleeting but the aftertaste often lingers and gets diverted into worse attacks. Downhill all the way.

  7. @AS...Yes, we have to start inculcating basic values of acceptable public behavior. Abusive language on TV or web is vitiating the atmosphere.

    @Jayanth...We encourage readers to comment and this encouragement sometimes becomes ugly.

    @Shobhit...You are right doc. Many a times a healthy discussion becomes abusive and ends in a mob mentality.Tolerance is passe!Revenge is in.

  8. I agree totally. Vitriol and vulgarity are completely unacceptable. If I find such blog posts, I stop visiting that blog. And frankly, there is no need to get all worked up about when someone writes something on their blog. There is a way of conveying dissent within the boundaries of decencies.

  9. Yes..I agree and I also read another post covering the same issues which you raised. It has become so easy to bash someone or write and express your opinion about something which can easily cross the line of decency and be considered a plain abuse. Your opinion about something or someone is your opinion and you have no right to shove it and generalize it for everyone.

  10. @BKC...Yes, blocking and ignoring is the best way out.

    @Rahul..I have not been to Israel but am sure they have a few tips for us.

    @Zephyr...There was no need to dignify that post with thousand comments. The girl achieved what she wanted.

  11. @Rachna, Kunal....

    We encourage readers to comment and the same encouragement becomes ugly .

  12. Freedom of expression has limited itself to vulgar thrashings or mindless venting in today's era! Its really sad to see people mighty their own self esteem by degrading but kicking on someone else respect and many others appreciating it just for d heck of it!


  13. SO true .. as they say all actions come with a responsibility pity is we dont think of it that way.

    True so much trash is there online nd no one is accountable for it ...

    As i wrote that article on timesof india abut riots etc , you shud have seen the comments on that article made me feel sick to call myself indian...

    People dont think and try to hide behind the anonymous Viel...

    but one thing that line where you mentioned throwing the blanket on warden and hitting him OHHHHHHHHH SO many times we planned to do it so many timesssssssssssssssss .. :)


  14. But sometimes the fault lies with bloggers too. Just to get more hits some of them spew venom through their posts. Public reads the post, get excited and puts abusive comments.

    There is one movie reviewer who reviews Malayalam movies. He chooses only popular hit movies to review. Then he digs into it scene by scene and interpret how minority communities are shown in the movie. His page views and comments are quiet high but everyone comes and criticizes the reviewer.

  15. have put it so well.

    @Sanjay...Thank you.

    @Bikram..Can you pl send me the link of ur article? You thrashed the warden? Bikky the great...We girls derived pleasure out of planning but could never muster enough courage.

    @Harish...You are so right. Such people are the Rakhi Sawants of cyberworld.They survive on criticism, controversy and abuse. Unfortunately there is a market for such people too.

  16. That was a wonderfully worded write-up. What ever happened to decency? Since when did abusive language become cool?

    I have been at the receiving end of abusive comments and I know how much it hurts. But engaging in a slanging match makes it even worse. Tolerance...compassion...they all seem outdated.

  17. Well I think this is the first completely serious post.
    No sarcasm or tounge-in-cheek :) :)
    Wonderful as always.

  18. very right.....things are getting worse day by day and whoever tries to give a word of advice, finds himself at the receiving end....

    Thoughtful write up Alka ji.

  19. I believe what is culminating on web is no different than what has been happening in real society since time immemorial. India, post its inception in the first decade of 19th century, was envisaged as a tolerant nation- much beyond religiosity. But things did not turn out to be that way. I did not go to Ramleela and one of the the females I knew then ( who was from ABVP ) told me that I am doing nothing for the country ! Such are the times.

    Intolerance !

    Internet allows anonymity and I have to say that you picked the right spot. Its a commendable observation actually. I have read a bit of psychology and this internet is governed by the same laws as "group dynamics"- dilution of responsibility ( which is pretty much what you talked about ). Sad it is because every comment without a name loses weight no matter how good it is.

    I would,infact, go on to say that anonymity speaks of lack of courage to face the music, if it follows so.

    I totally adore your first paragraph about the days of letters ( and long emails even )- I have a sister ( an old friend who had sisterly feelings ) who sends me this wonderful 4 liner "chit" every year on Rakhi. There is NOTHING- absolutely NOTHING- that compares to those 4 lines written in hindi.

    PS- comment has overshot its scope :) Apologies because there are just so many ideas that keep pouring in :)).

    Thank you for the wonderful post Mrs Gurha :!

  20. Web could just be playing the role of a catalyst in today's increasingly intolerant, abusive and decadent society. Remember, people are being shot for trying to mediate in petty quarrels among strangers.

    On a side note, I don't know why I have this feeling that the polite lady in question is actually trying to woo the Delhi scoundrel.

  21. Alka,

    That is a different style from you.

    Anyway, I don't agree on some points. Internet is not any more precarious as it used to be. Actually it a little bit more open now. There are tools to figure out the person posting messages and then there are spam detectors. Accountability is same as in print media and at some place it is enforced. No one is anonymous.

  22. internet, like money, isn't's how it is used that's good and bad...

    or...if it is indeed bad, then it is as bad as the ones who use's a window to the mind of the society...

    let's say, like everything, even the virtual media falls in the grey zone...along with the anonymous and venomous ones we have blogs like all gets balanced :)

    nice post Alka :)


  23. wow, so wonderfully expressed Alks!
    I had read the 'Madrasan's' post and liked it for it was very well worded too...a bit exaggerated, but then it was her space and her right to say what she was also not intended for the entire community as people took it...

    anyways, blogging/fb/twitter comes in a package-the good and the bad, the pleasing and the ugly...we have to accept both, although we may agree or differ...

    i guess my point is that when it is releasing and de-stressing for someone who is talking about her college pals or motherhood or home management...then why not for those who are bitter about love n stuff...

    did you read the next post by the girl-poor kid, all troubled,, just because she wrote her mind on her blog one day:-)

  24. You have raised a good point! The abusers only display their low mentality.

  25. I agree...and this shows up the personality tweeting or bogging or status grounded and firm you are ...
    Vulgarity in thoughts shows up in language and words.

  26. Such a good post Alka, and very correct indeed...
    Even though there still are many many good bloggers out there like yourself, but these few rotten apples spoil the whole bunch, causing a domino effect of sorts and pulling unsuspecting people with them who fall prey to their tactics...
    sad but true...

  27. So your blog space is your personal diary sorts. And therefore, you have all the right to rant about things, that went wrong for YOU! But, you can't generalize stuff.
    I agree, that you are angry at someone for behaving inappropriately, but that does not give you the license to point fingers at the culture of our country.

    I also agree that the society is becoming intolerant, to a lot of things, may be that is another reason why we have a lot of broken families!
    Great as usual Alka, and I am gonna write a post on something similar.

  28. @Purba..What is most irritating when they do not read the entire post and assume things which one never said.

    @Utsuk... I have written several thought provoking ones. Will send you the link. Thanks for reading.

    @Irfanuddin...Thank you. Your post on Irom Sharmila is very apt.

  29. @Sritatsat...Very well put. I am wondering, do they teach letter writing in school these days.There was a brilliant article on the 'age of rage' in Guardian, UK where they discussed internet psychology which u have talked about.

    @A...Yes, spam detectors do help in curbing abusive vulgar comments. But in print media the letters and comments are checked by many before they are published. One is not allowed to abuse in print but it easy to do so on the net.

  30. @SUB...I am not saying that internet is bad, in fact it has revolutionized the world.My grouse is against personal abuse and fantasized violence.

    @Suruchi...I havent read her second post. In fact I loved her first post as I took it with a pinch of salt. But not everyone did. I was aghast by the dirty comments she received.Many comments were with sexual innuendos and the poor girl did not deserve them even though she had offended some sensibilities in jest.

  31. @Giribala...:)


    @AAD...Some intentionally write controversial things to get attention, but they are the Rakhi Sawants of blogdom.We should not dignify them with any response.

  32. Alka madam, your article states how the the present world is. It is a flat world.
    Earlier the world was circular. You gave respect. You got respect. It came back to you.
    Now you give respect, no response. It ends. A flat world.
    It requires serious introspection to handle today's flat world.

  33. Very well written

    I agree that anonymity of the net gives a license to abuse without a face and many times it is being misused. But then net is a powerful and instantaneous medium to communicate and with its benefits has some drawbacks too

  34. @Umashankar...The lady got the attention she was craving for...Imagine thousand comments on your third post...We can only dream of that unless of course we indulge in blasphemy.Post a picture of goddess in a bikini and and you have a perfect recipe for abuses and attention..good or bad.

    @Kirti...You are so right.

    @Pesto sauce...Of course, internet has its benefits and has revolutionized the world.Like any other this medium is not infallible.

  35. yea...i know that....I was trying to say that there bad things are always going to be there with the good ones...:)...and yea it's irritating to be on the receiving end of these comments...i had few calling me moron....:D

  36. As long as it can redirect the abuses away from the real world, I won't mind having it.
    But alas, that does not happen at all. Both worlds run in parallel and slanging paradigms are just merging.

    Nice post.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  37. @SUB...You are right but with the kind of invectives flying around moron is kinda cute....just kidding.I am wondering what kind of person would call someone that in print?

    @Anshul...True, road rage, official rage, campus rage and virtual rage have become seamless.

    @Deepak...Welcome back from Rajasthan.

  38. exactly, I hate that too, people using so many unsocial words on even social networking sites, forget about chats. It leads misconception only.

    i had written about similar topic, here is the link

  39. Well said Alka! I hate it when people use their creative writing skill in wrong way in the virtual space! And the way people have exploited the freedom they've got..
    This is indeed a wonderful invention and a powerful way of communiction..undoubtedly. But there should be some way to filter these filthy things!

  40. Limit has been breached .... Unfortunate .

  41. There are all kinds of people who make this world..somehow only the bad comes to limelight. But then such posts like this with so many comments prove that internet can be used well.

  42. Brilliant post Alka, I have been guilty of Cyber ranting myself especially during the Anna Hazare movement, I remeber I once sent a Tweet asking Sunil Gavaskar to shut up, regretted that later. But it is a growing problem and medically there is no cure for impulsive decision like sending a Tweet berating someone else. Great post loved it.

  43. @Jyaendrasharan...I will read your post now.

    @Anu...Thank you for reading.

    @Team G Square...Thanks.

    @bemoneyaware...Thank you. Yes but I am not sure about the comments if I write on religion.Disagreement is acceptable but abuse is scary.

    @Vikram...Thank you.
    Shut up is a mild disagreement , I have read some degrading dirty comments on Shobha De's blog.

  44. I am against abusive profanity-laden posts myself.But one thing is,the people posting them aren't exactly asking us to go and see what they have written,right?If it is their blog,they can post anything they want in it.It's their personal space after all.And regarding accountability and all,the examples of toilets and beating up the warden are those of anonymity.Yep,anonymity translates into no accountability as well.But in case of blog posts,they have your name on it.People who might know you will see what you have written.So anonymity isn't as strongly established here,and consequently,some amount of accountability does creep in.If we don't like the content of a post,we can simply stop reading it.I don't understand why make such a big hue and cry over such posts.That post by that angry South Indian attracted a whole lot of undue attention,I feel.

  45. Very thoughtful post. While we have learnt to accept an abusive society, one wonders if it is just pent up anger in general channeling its way through cyberspace or anonymity or if it is one of those sadistic things that perverted elements just plainly enjoy doing. Where an Indian society is concerned I think it is the latter mostly. There are far too many elements who like to 'rebel' and cast aspersions on everything that is good just because probably their life isn't.

  46. @Rahul...Welcome here and thank you for reading. Rahul, Yes Blogspace is personal and the girl had all the right to rant or rave but I was aghast at the comments she received. The comments were mean, sexist and personal. The best way perhaps is to ignore bloggers who are trying to create controversy rather than join the slanging match . As I said two wrongs do not make a right. Several comments on Shobha Des blog are downright personal and abusive...

  47. @Richa..Thank you for reading Richa. We are fast becoming an intolerant society. A toll attendant was shot for doing his duty. It is the age of rage. We have look for answers. Where is this anger coming from?

  48. Very nicely written Alka. Unfortunately with Internet people can conceal their identity and hence sometimes are not worried about accountability. Internet is a great source for Popcorn Happiness, with zero worries about consequences. I guess this absence of fear nurtures greed. While I agree that nobody has the right to abuse anybody despite differences, but I feel that in long run, all these Popcorn seeking, abusive folks become inconsequential, so just keep up the good work :)

  49. A very apt post, Alka. Many people are misusing and abusing the internet. All kind of vulgarity under the guise of freedom of expression has crept in everywhere. Anonymity has given people the advantage to get as abusive and as cheap as they want to.

  50. true.... there is a big part of net users who r using this platform in a wrong way.... but there r some who r making big difference too.

    the attitude is totally individualistic...
    but I am afraid of tht day when wrong ppl becomes more than the good ones

  51. Nitin, Rachna and Jyoti....Thank you for spending time. It means a lot.

  52. you have already been to that post :)


  53. Internet offers immense scope for 'faceless abuse'. Whats sad to see is that a high majority of us are using that scope generously. Not to mention the growing intolerance to practically everything.

    All it does is create a humorless, dead society.

  54. Trolling is the in thing. And I guess people do it, because they are too chicken to say it to the face of someone and protest and/or it gives them a high to think that they did or said something which they otherwise would not have dared to.
    But you summarized it beautifully with "Above all it has to be said that anonymous abuse is the weapon of the vulgar; not the civilized."