When twitter first came to India, it was just a microblogging site. Though it still is that, technically speaking, but it has assumed far greater importance in our communications, then we initially assumed it would. Initially it was just a fun site for connections and light banter. People thronged the site to share one liners and cool excerpts. The very small word limit made the messages precise and easily consumable. It was a happy social space.
What happened now?
With the influx of celebrities and political bigwigs, twitter became a conversation domain where emotions were expressed vividly. The fans, the trolls, the neutrals everyone flooded twitter with the intention of getting heard. Every communication now definitely finds its way on twitter. It gets magnified either for good or bad.
What exactly is the problem?
Twitter is just a medium. Let’s understand it. Like any other medium, people might use it for good or bad. The way we censor and penalize bad behavior in real world, we must do it on twitter too. However, there is something called “freedom” that we all, so freely enjoy, something that we must continue to enjoy in our expression. Blanket bans on accounts that seem unaligned to a majoritarian view must not be the only criterion on blocking the accounts.
So, what is the solution?
The solution is simple. We must restrain accounts that are in violation of the law of the land and let the acceptable dissent flow. We must not tarnish a larger movement, regardless of its merit, because of the fringes. It’s the weed that we should remove and not the crop. Remember weed grows regardless of a thing being good or bad.
Are the conversations on twitter real or manufactured?
Both. It might be organic or manufactured. However, none of it is a problem till it’s in violation of the law of the land and poses security threat. A manufactured dissent will die its own death as it won’t find any takers in the long run and because people are not really committed for it. The moment these people will switch off their phone, they will go back to who they were. If it is organic, it will flourish outside twitter too and reach the masses.
Why celebrities are silent? Is it justified?
Celebrities have influence and they can take stand. So, should they do so? Are they morally bound? To answer this question, we first need to understand, why we want them to speak up. We want it because we feel that they can steer the vehicle toward a particular direction which we feel is the right one. We think that they fear the repercussions, and that is the reason they are not speaking up. If we protect them from the backlash, they would be happy to speak up. This is what we think. This might be partially true, but what if the polarization itself is not real, if the hate itself is not real, if everything is orchestrated with a design that has a short shelf life. If there is no genuine problem, then there is nothing that needs to be fixed. If you know that it is all for a show, and you are not interested in the show, then you might not want to be a part of it.
Can people boycott the celebrities and bring down their large empires?
I don’t think that it is true. This can be a social media phenomenon where people can dislike a particular video or unfollow a celebrity if he appears to take a particular stand that’s against a majoritarian view. However, we need to understand that the real fan base remains loyal throughout. I haven’t encountered one individual who said he earlier liked someone but now dislikes him on account of his views. You will eventually be liked for your work than anything else.
Okay, real fan base won’t go, but what about young susceptible minds? Will a star loose out on new potential fans because of specific views?
There are no susceptible minds. People are smart. You need to understand the conversations that are happening in the ground in every household. Whenever a person is saying a particular view is correct, there is another view that says otherwise. So, there is a sane and thorough debate going on at the very root level. Don’t think people simply consume what comes from the top.
But there must be multiple views that come from the top for general people to analyze the pros and cons properly right? If one view is heavily propounded, the other view simply loses the game.
That is partially true. That’s why it is also important to speak up. But this is a larger point of diverse democratic conversations that should come from Journalism and politics. People should take part in it, but it’s these institutions that hold the responsibly of keeping the conversation pure and unbiased. And I still feel even if the correct view is less spoken, it still makes itself obvious and people understand it. Such is the nature of the truth. It eventually gets you. But we do need equal space for all views.
Would you request celebreties to speak more?
It’s totally their prerogative.
Can people ride the social media wave by aligning themselves with a particular view for their own benefit?
They can try. However, it wouldn’t last long. it’s very difficult to take the love and hate of social media very seriously. A like in your twitter post would not translate into the person liking the post seeing your movie. He might be liking the post out of fun or compulsion, who knows. Even if the person is genuinely liking your post, he might like you for your views, but hate you for your work. That can also happen.
So, what is the final solution?
Have more democratic conversations. Give space to other views. Allow dissent. Allow multiple viewpoints to flourish, so that everyone can form their own opinion.
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