How Twitter breeds Suhel Seths of the world
The problem I have with social media is that it makes people believe that their opinion matters.
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I am no fan of social media. Yet, I use it, consume it and I'm writing this because "@suhelseth who are you?" has flooded my Twitter timeline and irritated the living hell out of me. I bet I'm not the only one. The context: at the Times Litfest in Mumbai, the man who describes himself as bon vivant in his Twitter bio inquired about Viren Rasquinha (former captain of the Indian hockey team) by asking "what's that bald guy done?" Okay. So he didn't know who Rasquinha was. And Rasquinha felt bad that Seth didn't know who he was, despite having been on stage at the same event for a panel on sport. Rasquinha tweeted his distress. The tweets tugged at the hearts of a section of twitterati and the entire episode became a part of ten minute Twitter history.
But what else did any one expect from Suhel Seth? No one really knows what he does and how/what he says/thinks started to matter. It's all right to call out his ignorance. But how many of those outraging really knew who Viren Rasquinha was before this ugly spat? I'll confess I hadn't heard of Rasquinha till a few months ago. And I only heard of him when he was a guest on the show I produce. And that's the problem I have with social media. It makes people believe that their opinion matters beyond the little bubble of the follower-retweet universe, it makes everyone a social commentator, a sanctimonious pronouncer of good conduct and morality, regardless of bad English and grammar. And, in the brilliant irony that social media perpetuates, it dangerously breeds tiny self-important Suhel Seths.
There's no denying the power of the medium. It's great to mobilise public opinion. It's an excellent platform to call attention to an issue. It's the quickest source of news. But it's also full of attention seekers. It also seems to encourage a sort of sameness. News people, activists, actors, all tweeting and outraging about similar, obvious things sometimes actually knowing very little about what they're talking about. And I'm not even going to talk about the trolls.
Like thousands of others, I know I joined Twitter to follow news, fashion, news about fashion and breaking stories. I'm a passive user, a lurker really, and tweet only when I feel strongly about something. I don't think my comments on everything and about everyone matter. And I don't think appending OMG to stories about rape will change much. Will those who feel compelled to tweet about everything exercise caution and their minds a little more? Don't be silly.