Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Is Social Media making us angry?



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The Times of India newsfeed says: Check out Kareena Kapoor’s killer body transformation in just ten months.
As I zip through the comments, there’s a virtual bitch-fest on. Turns out, almost everyone who hates TOI reads the paper, comments on it and engages on their enlightening threads - Esha Deol and her baby shower, Soha and her baby bump, Taimur and his Swiss vacation.
So X says, ‘Who cares what Kareena does. Why do you think we are interested?’
Y plugs in, ‘Big deal. Who reads toilet paper? You suck.’ 
Z quips, ‘X, you are a hypocrite. Just because she was born in a rich family and you weren’t.’
To which a ‘nationalist’ retorts, ‘Not interested in Love Jihadis who named their unscrupulous offspring after a barbarian.’
Within seconds Kareena’s figure gets political. Extremes get sucked in. ‘Sanghi dumbf**k, so now we have to name our kids according to your 56 inch?’ 

Hello? The article was about an actress and her shapely lady lumps. What happened? Never mind, the toilet paper went laughing all the way to the nearest loo. Bank, I mean. 

Image from here

Which brings me to the moot question: Is the internet making us angry or were we always like this?

Anyone who has interacted on social media knows how vicious our conversations have become. Why does the internet bring out the worst in us? Once upon a time, Twitter was about witty memes, funny hash tags and clever one-liners. Not anymore. Bored of exchanging hearts, smiles and balloons, Facebook conversations are also veering towards the vitriolic mode. 

To begin with, let us accept that the web is turning monologues into dialogues. Social media allows us to converse – to agree or to disagree. When we agree, we simply like, share and move on. But when we disagree, civil discourse flows into murky waters of confrontation and name calling. Disagreement is good, rage is not. But since the conversation is public, how can we come across as a cop out for those reading the jaw-jaw? Silence is akin to defeat. 
Oftentimes, hate is a result of fear. Most hatemongers are attention seeking, insecure people who are fearful of losing what they have – pride, power, influence. Any diverse view threatens their existence. This fear gives rise to anger and confrontation. 

Recently, @GabbbarSingh, a twitter celebrity tweeted, ‘Indian internet hasn’t gone rogue. Just that a forum which was earlier a niche has reached the real India which is racist, misogynist & bigoted.’ 
This may be partially true. Partially, because we know enough number of educated urban-ites who are equally bigoted and intolerant. The shopkeeper from Rampur may abuse in gutter Hindi but the graduate from Bangalore matches it with fu**ing Angrezi finesse. Just that it sounds worse in Hindi for the urbanite. A lot of sarcastic comments come from educated people who use their societal perch to mock the not so privileged. To say that entire real India is racist, misogynist and bigoted would be a sweeping statement.

However, it is also true that the internet has given a voice to those who had no say in our socio-political discourse. A school dropout in Chindwara, a pan-shop owner in Gorakhpur, a jobless youth in Kashmir and a cab driver in Faizabad – all have an opinion. Those who were silent yesterday are all over the internet today. Why, forget engaging with them, we are unlikely to say hello if we meet them in the market. But these are the very people we are having conversations with. 

When a small town frustrated dropout, someone who never saw his mother or sister voice an opinion finds a platform where he can say anything to anyone under a veil of anonymity, he doesn't mind exposing his worst side possible. Abusing powerful men and women, more so women, is liberating for his caged existence. He feels accomplished. Not only does the web allow him to speak his mind, but it also gives him the courage to say things he wouldn’t dare in person. 
Then there is the infamous tyranny of distance. He is in Raipur, you are in Mumbai, how does it matter? Zero consequence. When caught with his pants down, he will delete his abusive comment or suspend his account. And maybe log in again with a pseudonym. On the other hand, if you show the mirror to a reputed journalist or politician, he is likely to call you names and block you. Anger works in different ways with different people.

Most verbal attacks get aggravated because the conversation doesn't happen in real time. Moreover, the veil of the web accentuates arguments. Don’t we brush aside our disagreements when we meet in a social milieu? Hating a tag (Liberal, Bhakt, Congilicker) is easy, not so much a human. 

Talking about labels, it is easy to fall prey to assumptions. Pigeonhole people. Stereotype them. All of this warps our judgement and complicates issues rather than resolving them. People continue believe what they want to. Our truth to them is irrelevant. 
If anything, online conversations tell us that we are all hypocrites of varying degrees with a perceived halo on our heads. Yes, all. Lest we get disheartened, know that the web rage is not exclusive to India. It’s a universal phenomenon. Look how angry the American President is.
 And there’s a long way to go before we can log in to a more tolerant and pleasant social media. Until then it's best to avoid angry conversations and seek real people to converse with. 

Let’s round it up with Kareena.
Bet? Hundred bucks. If the jerk who created online stink about Kareena gets a chance to meet her, he will give anything to catch her glimpse. Who knows, he might even upload a picture with her. To which another angry voice will say, ‘Big deal. Kareena is a sl*t.’ 
Yes, the web exposes our not so pleasant side. Deal with it.

26 comments:

  1. Anonymity, distance, pent-up frustrations, and a desire for a spot in the limelight-all these have combined to make the social media what it is.

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  2. Powerful writing, Alka.
    Social media has the uncanny ability to bring out our insecurities, prejudices and resentment. But then you also learn to filter out the filth and focus on the good work by the conscientious Samaritans.

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  3. Brilliant.
    Vent out your anger and disgust.
    Sudden power to say any and everthing that web has given is bringing junk out not goodness of writing....

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  4. Brilliant.
    Vent out your anger and disgust.
    Sudden power to say any and everthing that web has given is bringing junk out not goodness of writing....

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  5. Like the two sides of a coin, internet can be a powerful tool and at the same time turn to a platform of debased expression ! The good thing is we have the power to choose what we read or see:)

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  6. True, it is the nature of the best. Khabhi milein toh I must share about personal encounters online that would have been very different face to face.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading KIran. Always a pleasure to hear your POV.

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  7. Unfortunately, social media has given useless people a sense of entitlement and very vocal where they trade insults. I am sure they have a place to hide.

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    Replies
    1. True. But it's not only useless people. Even as I write our former I&B minister has tweeted a very abusive tweet.

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  8. Your analysis of the factors spawning the vitriolic conversations is powerful and brilliant: the temporal and spatial distances, the smallness of outlook, the vacuousness of brains, the hypocrisy of bigots. At the end of the day, it all boils down to lawlessness and unemployment. No media, Twitter or Facebook, or the Walls of a Cave, can make people anymore ugly than they really are. Do you reckon humans became particularly virulent after they learnt to carve on stone? A medium can only be a manifestation of the culture it exists in. This was precisely the thought that occurred to me as I progressed into your cogent post where after a while you invoked a Twitter idol who goes by the moniker of a villain from that popular movie. Now I do not know who has been soiling the name of Gabbar Singh but I tend to agree with the underlying idea, as already stated.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Umashankar for reading and your valuable input. With a heavy heart I have to say you are right - no medium can make people anymore ugly than they are. Perhaps we were always like this. The web has exposed us in more ways than one.

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  9. Wonder if you are also looking for a moment in the sun through the social media. Nothing wrong in it but do accept that you have also become a part of that you comment on. Else why would you waste your time on such inconsequential posts. Ofcourse anything vitriolic is an outpouring of frustration but saying it is so makes no difference. The problem is that there are those who post and those who attack those posts. This fuels the social media so unwittingly you become a part of it. The better way is to act in the real world and not the cyber world.

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    Replies
    1. I'm a writer who comments on news and media. I observe and reflect on why people behave the way they do. I would be writing a diary and not a blog if I wanted to stay away from it. Having said that, it is true that the best is to ignore angry meaningless trolls and let them wilt away. This is what I say in my article. I've used a trivial topic of Kareena as an example to make the article light hearted. Sensitive examples, like, say a Gauri Lankesh murder would steer the discussion from the reasons behind SM anger to Left vs Right.
      Thank you for reading.

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  10. Actually social media is not making us angry. We are exposing our abusive side, which is an outcome of curbed frustrations and jealousy out on the internet. Such articles become fodder for the frustration and comments are posted as a diarrheal output of this.Of course TOI has been interested in cleavages and boobs since long and it sells and they know it. Even the ones who trash them, make it a point to read it anyway.

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    Replies
    1. True and the more people trash them the more TOI does it. Works for them.

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  11. must read it

    http://www.viralpostx.com/2017/09/viralpostxcom_19.html

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  12. Very well written Alka. Have wondered about this phenomenon often and as you said have often cringed at the kind of comments ppl put on any video or news item. How do they have the time and so much hate filled in them..I wonder. It has also given a voice to all kinds of ppl who want to bask in the sudden attention. Speaking of which, do watch this video which I had seen sometime back. Very relevant to the topic you have posted.https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2017/mar/10/the-internet-warriors-meet-the-trolls-in-their-own-homes-video

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    Replies
    1. I saw this one while reading to write on this topic. Pertinent.
      Thanks for sharing Asha.

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  13. Not all are true. Everyone has their own way of thinking but I think they have to reconsider. I like to argue for the most accurate results.
    http://fivenightsatfreddysplay.com

    ReplyDelete