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Because silence is never a good thing

4 Feb

I’m admitting today, I don’t get how social media/networks works. When I read yesterday that facebook has killed their organic reach algorithms completely, my immediate thought was “oh great, no reason to stick around here anymore.” Many folks stated how it made business sense for facebook, but I can’t wrap my head around how a social network goes from being 50% networking and 50% business opportunity enhancer to 100% marketplace, making you pay for everything you need to do to use it to your advantage. Perhaps this has been a long time coming, and is the general direction in which the internet itself is going to move, but I still don’t get it.

Many years ago, when I was still undecided about my stance on fb, I remember saying out loud that I don’t get how its possible to be fb friends with someone who has openly expressed a dislike for you in real life. I got told off my a “friend” then, that I didn’t get how facebook worked and that I should probably stay off it for good. And so, I did. For almost three years.

I’ve since figured out what fb can do for me, made peace with its inherent hypocrisy and realised where it can work for me. In the bargain, I have enjoyed that I have control over what I see, who I engage with and how much I want to indulge in any given engagement. I’ve said this before, amongst the things that made the return to fb fun was the increased interaction over issues. In the years I was away fb seemed to have moved from a space for sharing moments in our lives to discussing, debating, cross questioning everyday issues of personal, national and global interest. I have truly enjoyed some of the discussions I have witnessed, participated in and even watched from the fringes. But I have also not enjoyed some parts of it. Last year, around the time of the election my fb list got self-weeded out a bit. By May 16, I wished so many of my friends hadn’t aired their political views so openly because I couldn’t help but alter my perceptions about them, once I had read all that they have written, shared and openly liked. It manifested in limited interactions with some, surprise bonhomie with others, and in some unfortunate cases a complete severing of ties. Things I hadn’t noticed as problematic about these friends, their actions, lives and thoughts, I suddenly began to notice with hyper-sensitivity. I began to question things a lot more deeply and slowly but surely I have realised that what manifests as a shrill political view is seldom restricted to just a political view. Whether far right or left, it creeps into the general ethic of your life itself. How you view basic relationships, approach situations, your attitudes, your stance on various global and sociological issues, your style of communication, your speech, dialogue, and even just the way you conduct yourself, is dictated by your ethic and belief system.

The knowledge of it (about most people I know) has made me pointedly aware and almost self-conscious in my interactions with them.

It’s no wonder then that the only true conversation that remains on my feed today is mainly of a bunch of friends who relentlessly question the Good Days we have been blessed with, dialogue it, air their beliefs no matter how minor they may be. Apart from that there’s a good load of discussions on kitchen gardening, home schooling, baking, writing and other creative pursuits. All the things I can vibe with, basically. It’s happened rather organically, by process of natural selection, only the posts and people I have open communication with, stay on top of my feed. A look at my feed on any given day is so telling of which of my friends I have how much commonality with. It’s also telling of a certain discomfort with sharing opinions with those who might or might not always feel the same way. It tells a tale of how raising questions that certain segments of people feel shouldn’t be asked can only be done amongst those who are on the same side as you. I have the fb algorithm to thank for this.

Quite unconsciously all of social media gets divided into us and them, no matter which side of the fence you are on. Fragmenting people on the basis of their opinions, forming extreme factions, leaving little room for those in the gray. People in the gray, as well as issues that lie in the grey. This new pattern of so called communication may inherently also be killing all essential dialogue.

Increasingly I see this happening on twitter too. Until recently, I had a private account and I used twitter mostly as a means to share links, read posts and links that interest me, that reach me via someone I have chosen to connect with based on a mutual interest or connection. But ever since I made my account public, my tl has been flooded by a shitload of new followers, and my feed on any given day is populated with things I wasn’t previously used to seeing. It leaves me equal parts amused, curious, surprised. Sometimes pleasantly, and sometimes in the rudest way possible.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to air an opinion, just voice it. It takes absolutely no time for a mere statement of opinion, to be taken as a personal attack to someone’s belief system and your reaction is met with a defensive, angry counter-argument. What happened yesterday has fortunately or unfortunately altered my stance towards twitter too. It’s the beginning of training myself to do on twitter, what I do on fb — watch and be amused, but whatever you do, do not engage.

It helped that about half a dozen people (most unknown followers on twitter) messaged in to say I was right to back off from “the spat” (I seriously didn’t think it was spat until it was pointed out to me — seriously, twitter spat is a thing?) because the person I was arguing with had no real point to make. One of them went so far as to say you can’t fight an idiot (this is not the word the person used, though. Im being polite :)) with logic because they drag you down and beat you with experience.

And I realised that’s just it. Shrill views, I can tolerate. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when did it become wrong to share an opposing view? When did that become such a cause for threat? Combine that insecurity with obstinacy and belligerence and you have a perfect recipe for zero communication. Zero dialogue. Zero understanding, sharing and exchange of views. And correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t that kind of the point of social media, at some point in the past?

Twitter and fb have shown me a lot of things I didn’t know. When I have the time and patience for it, I’m always up for a different point of view. When I see someone knows something I know nothing about, Im quick to virtually drag a chair and join in the discussion. I’m naturally curious and have a huge appetite for debate. So far I’ve been very lucky with having come across enough people online who are of the same wavelength, and indulge this side of me.

But I do not know what to make when a mere statement that could lead to an intelligent discussion, unravels very quickly into an unnecessarily defensive and borderline ugly “spat” with everybody getting so personal and dragging it down to the language of “BS” and “shit.”

So I’ll admit again, I don’t get how this form of social networking works. Especially after yesterday, which was possibly the most active day I’ve ever had on twitter. I spend most of my time on twitter passively looking at what people have to say, but every now and then something pops up that makes me want to react. More importantly, I’m prompted to react when the tweet comes from someone I assume to be open to discussion and debate/sharing, even if we never agree, or openly choose to disagree. I’ve done this a lot on twitter and fb, and some of the best interactions online have been such discussions where I’ve been able to see a point of view I didn’t know existed, or made to see another opinion, see it, acknowledge it, accept it, even if I don’t agree with it. I think that is so critical to communication itself, online or otherwise.

The ability to agree to disagree, in a civil well-mannered way has always been my scale to judge a healthy level of communication. By that parameter, my relationship and communication with the hugsband is probably the healthiest. We rant and rave, fight tooth and nail, take each other down over many things. Sometimes we agree humbly, many times we storm off in a rage, only to return to say okay, we can agree to disagree. But no matter what the outcome, we don’t reach those conclusions without seeing the other person’s point of view, at the very least. But its only possible where there is room for logic, some kind of rational, and humble debate. You can only communicate when the channel for communication is open and willing. Increasingly I feel there is so little space for this online. We only want to huddle around with people who will mutely agree with us, or openly disagree with us. We don’t want to share our views and enlighten each other, we’d much rather sit atop our sky-high ivory towers and pontificate endlessly, never once bothering to look at what’s happening outside and around us. Online or otherwise.

*****

Oh and btw, in case you care to know the discussion yesterday was about Freedom of Expression, in relation to the FIR filed and probe ordered into the AIBRoast. After a point it wasn’t about the video anymore, it wasn’t even about comedy, but essentially about just allowing for someone to share an opinion, regardless of whether it’s something you like, can bring yourself to see, or agree with.

This response by the guys at AIB pretty much sums up what I feel and what I was trying to get across, but failed wholeheartedly, because it’s kind of hard to get across to anything that is blinkered, yet opinionated. Lethal combination, that.

Essentially it was about how the larger debate about freedom of expression, no matter how cool it may be to offer your two-bit about, cannot be linked to the issue of the AIBRoast through wide swathes of misinformed illogical statements. You cannot talk of FoE without an understanding of context and consent. And as for the Roast, the context is Insult Comedy, the very basis of which is crass, vulgar, offensive attacks on celebrities who consented to participate in wholeheartedly. If you’re the kind who is easily offended, look away. If you’re the kind who cannot be bothered and isn’t very opinionated, watch and enjoy. But you cannot watch it, claim it is crass and offensive, and then say its no different from Kumar Vishwas’ kali-peeli comment, or that the people who enjoy insult comedy can’t call out instances of fat-shaming, racist, misogynistic “comedy.” If you have an opinion, pick a side and stick by it. I just wish people cared to think a little before they flapped their gums on twitter. Or if that’s too much to ask, I wish they’d at least google it before they tweet about it!

These lines sum it up for me:
We respect arguments that are critical, and as for the arguments we don’t, we respect your right to make them without impediment. It is a courtesy we wish worked both ways.

And that really was the point at which I stepped away from the argument.

*****

The other day, a vehement AAP supporter on my fb posted a status message that made me reach out and send across a PM, because I was touched by it. Not because of the person’s political leanings or what the status message said, but because in a world where increasingly those without these shrill views (on anything!) are being silenced because they’re not easily offended, or don’t indulge in online slugfests big and small, it’s very refreshing to have an honest opinion being openly shared. I commended the lighthearted status message and expressed how I’ve censored myself on fb a lot in recent time, because of the reactions it causes. From friendships being broken to being rapped on twitter to being unnecessarly entangled in an idiotic argument, I’ve seen it all.

“They’ve only won when we say they have. Until then, game on!” came the response.

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24 Responses to “Because silence is never a good thing”

  1. Sarvani February 4, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    I hear you on quite a few of the points you make! I no longer engage with people on social media on deeper issues of politics and the sort. The vehemence with which they have at times responded to an opposing view or for that matter, they have deliberately twisted my words has left a bad taste! I couldn’t understand how people altered in the defence of their argument..its as if I never knew them! I now prefer those discussions with a few with whom I can have the discussion face to face, even if we differ, we can atleast look each other in the eye! I leave the social media for the blog and maybe in a way for the superfluous…not the superfluous.. but rather lets say the non controversial!

    • hAAthi February 4, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

      I agree completely. Not with leaving the blog for the non-controversial, because this is the only place I feel I can say what I feel regardless of the consequences in people’s minds. Its harder to have that disengaged stance on fb and twitter and I invariably get very vocal and involved with my engagements. These days Im consciously curtailing my need to butt in and offer my opinion everywhere. I dont think people have a stomach for it, no matter if they claim they do. Very few people can do the whole we can agree to disagree but still be civil thing. We’ve reached a point of so little tolerance, its shameful.

  2. Bubblegum February 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    Facebook and Twitter ruined my life so much that, I dont feel like reading all feeds on Facebook. I have deleted my twitter account. I feel free now. I wish some day Facebook does not remain the only way to say hi to some of my relatives/friends. I wish some day I would delete the FB account as well.

    The real reason is, even when we have freedom of speech On Facebook relations are based on what we think about a political party or what we think about a movie or a video! It is a business book and no more a friend’s book. Some believe I love for Modi and some day they believe I hate him. Some believe I am Gujarati so I have lots of black money and some believe we support riots. If I post my views on what had happened in Ahmedabad that day they feel I kill Muslims, if I wish my best friend who is Muslim they feel I support congress. A judgement is being passed on me, every minute from what I post there.

    It just breaks my heart. I wish I can delete the account some day and just do not worry about being in touch with any one who cares to wish me on my birthday, on my wall,once a year.

    I wish.

    • hAAthi February 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

      That’s really sad :( and in many ways says a lot about the quality of relationships we keep, no?

      • Bubblegum February 4, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

        True. I hope some day I can do relationship detoxification.

  3. egeedee February 4, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    I know exactly what you mean. Fuck. People are so sensitive and are guaranteed to take things the wrong way. I prefer not saying anything. If i share something, it’s my prerogative to do so. If someone comments, I don’t engage them if I have no respect for what they have to say. I just say it’s my feed, deal with it. Very nicely of course. I have a friend whose uncle gave her a longgggg public lecture on facebook for “liking” a page that he alleged promoted abortions. It was full of drama and guilt. All I could think of was “Heard of private messaging, dude?” Her reply was killer. Everything I expected from her and I air-high-fived her so hard. “Hey Uncle so and so. I just don’t think abortion should be regulated by the government. I love you.”

    • hAAthi February 4, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

      I need to try the i-love-you method!!
      Im also slightly stupid, I realise because I pick the worst bones :P
      I am still learning to pick my battles well, engage with people I respect who can have intelligent debates and talk things out rather than jump to slugfests.
      But I cant help but feel being online is giving a lot of people (myself included!) free license to shoot their mouths in a way that makes them think what they think and feel is final. Its hard to engage with that.

      • egeedee February 4, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

        It really makes you wonder how stupidity can reign so freely but it does so we just have to write our own satirical stories and laugh at it all. This inflated sense of self is all thanks to social media. I feel it too sometimes. I get it, we write blogs that sort of feed into it all but I’m quite confident that I would never let it take me over wherein I feel nothing but apathy. There’s the contradiction: I want to feel so deeply but I don’t want to care so much about the misinformed..gaaahhhhh. I think you are in a great place where you are articulate enough to voice your thoughts in a detailed manned thanks to this space. As for the jokers, you just have to laugh at them.

        • hAAthi February 4, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

          And laugh I did. Too bad I wasted about half an hour of my precious day trying to communicate like a human being, before I gave up.
          Thank you, though. Youre too kind.

  4. SA February 5, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    I have been Facebook Free for a while now (almost 3 years) because whatever I did there made me feel a hypocrite. I don’t quite agree on weeding-your-friends-out-because- they don’t share the same political views. More often than not people just share things to enjoy their two minutes of fame or sometimes it is just ignorance :)
    .. I think we all need that every once in a while.

    • hAAthi February 6, 2015 at 11:14 am #

      I have had a 3 year fb-free stint too and it was fabulous. I came back for the cake-selling. Ironic that I’m not doing too much of that now. However, I have come around to realising what fb is useful for. t does help me network in terms of work, find opportunities and I try everyday to cut down the crap and focus on what its good for.

      As for weeding people out based on their views, I think it happens quite organically. Its not like I’m sitting around unfriending every right winger on my tl :P but the engagement lessens, perceptions change etc. However, in real life, I have lost two friends on the basis of their fundamental beliefs that I just cannot get myself to accept, more because I cant believe theyre the people I have grown up with and known closely, without any previous clue of such sentiments being held.

      • SA February 6, 2015 at 11:53 am #

        Yeah, maybe you are right about things happening organically over a period of time. I thought hard after reading your comment and realized that I weeded out people from my life based on their male chauvinistic ways. Righto!

        • hAAthi February 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

          That’s the other thing I said about political views are usually a good indication of peoples’ general ethics in life itself. I find the extreme right minded people are usually the ones I have run ins with for their close-minded attitudes to most things. Incidentally the person I had the spat with, I’d had a smallish run in with over home-schooling too. Extreme views in one area of life usually mean extreme views and the inability to see otherwise, in other areas too, in my experience.

  5. Santulan February 5, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    The elections were such a wonderful things for discovery.. People I know, whom I have shared food with, just went apeshit insane.. I understand that everyone has a choice when it comes to elections.. Some choose particular parties because of how it agrees to their ideology, some choose the lesser of the evils, and some choose to not choose at all..

    But After they make a choice, I don’t get why people put on blinders.. There are dumbasses in all parties.. There will be people who do good and people who screw up as well. But they will acknowledge only the good of their own party, and not the other.. They will scrutinize the others with such impossible standards..

    Don’t even get me started about religious views.. People have unfriended (fb & IRL) me for that.

    • hAAthi February 6, 2015 at 11:11 am #

      I went apeshit insane too :-/ and yes the blinders are MEGA annoying. My current peeve online is how the 31%ers don’t have anything to say on the many issues and blatant gaps/lapses in the current govts functioning. Nobody is complaining about the bigots out on the loose, shooting their mouths off all over the place. But someone organises a closed-door comedy show and everybody is up in arms, like we have no other issues to swoop down on. Such a shame.

      • rohini26 February 18, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

        This is something I have noticed too. Radio silence from these BJP fans on all the nonsense that is happening. Even more deafening silence on the AAP victory

        • hAAthi February 19, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

          As for the AAP victory, the deafening silence is suddenly making way for extremely politically correct course correction and image fixing. Its absolutely howlarious! Its a gigantic PR machine I tell you, its not the governing body of a nation.

  6. Jasmeet Kukreja (@nautankigori) February 6, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    Its been a quite long i am following your blogs and everytime “haathi” appears on my mailbox i certainly read your write up at the same moment. Must say this is first time i am commenting and my appetite says to read your scriblings more and more..
    There was really terrible debate happened in my office on the same topic and everyone had then end up losing the hope how to come over from this social fever we genration have these dayz…..

  7. B February 12, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    Maybe it’s because I’m eighteen and have become used to social media, but I have quite a good handle on how things are done–or are “supposed” to be done, at any rate.
    Few people share their innermost thoughts on Facebook anymore. Gone are the days when we would write on walls after school and post status updates on everything. Our parents are on Facebook now and profiles tend to be very curated–photos are uploaded but they are selected carefully. A recent trend cos of the timeline feature is to go back to 2011 or 2012 and like old posts, to embarrass the person concerned.
    Facebook friends are not necessarily your real life friends:they are just people you know. Having someone as a friend just means that you know them. It’s considered very very rude to unfriend someone on Facebook or to refuse their friend request if you know them in real life. You can unfollow their status updates if you find them annoying.
    Twitter is where people talk about their day to day lives…and retweet things they find interesting.
    Instagram is th wilder version of Facebook. It’s where you let people know what an ‘amazing’ life you’re leading and one of the most awkward situations is when you see a person you’ve never been introduced to but know because of insta/fb stalking.
    As for political opinions, I find people who are strong supporters of either party to be extremely annoying and I mostly ignore their opinions. The AIB Roast was, imo, beneficial to the AIB. I only torrented it because everyone was twalking about it. It was crass and vulgar and very occasionally funny. But they can say what they like I suppose.

    • hAAthi February 12, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

      Maybe its because im 30 and have witnessed social media change hugely over the last 7-8 years, I find my fb, twitter and instagram to be nothing like your description of it. Thats quite telling of different age groups finding differing uses of it.

      As for political opinions being aired, I’ll put that down to age too. At 18 I didnt have a wellformed political opinions. Few others around me did. And it really wasnt top of mind. But changes in the political scenario of the country over the last couple of years have made it impossible to ignore and I suppose thats why its all over my social media. And to be really honest, politics, the economy, daily life, work – things that I see on social media – are all a large part of my drawing room conversation too.

      I thought the roast was unfunny and stereotyped in parts too. But I applauded it for other reasons. And the bottomline of the argument is that, yes they have a right to say what they want. Yes people have the right to be offended. But they also have the right and the choice to heed the multiple warnings and look away. The roast incidentally also raised 40L in charity donated to 5 diff charitable organisations, so Im pretty sure it was beneficial to a lot more people than AIB.

      • B February 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

        Perhaps. I do think that my parents use Facebook far more religiously than I do. Somehow it’s become relatively unpopular among my age group. Nothing like how popular it was 2-3 years ago. My friends and I tend to check it for college updates and then move on. And you are 30-and your friends have moved beyond the “we can legally DRINK omg this is so amazing” phase-so I guess your insta would be different too.
        Politics does get shared but for the most part people avoid posting anything truly controversial except when it’s general election time. Which for malaysia was two years ago. Tbh I refuse to get my news from social media anymore as I simply don’t trust it.
        Meh, I didn’t think the roast was groundbreaking. I’ve seen funnier. Good for them if they donate to charity, I didn’t know that. But for humour I far prefer their YouTube videos-the Mario video was one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

        • hAAthi February 24, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

          Yep, their channel has some truly funny stuff, some that even made important social statements. I’ve been a fan ever since they started with their 45 minute soundcloud podcasts. Anyhoo, the point of this post wasnt to critique the content of the roast itself, as I think that is a hugely subjective space, but more to acknowldge that they *do* have a right to their freedom of expression, given the context within which it was presented. And much the same way, others have the freedom to *choose* to indulge in it or not, also to choose to be offended. but an FIR? And a probe? And an apology? That was ridiculous, I thought. I just wish we acted with such a furore and so much alacrity every time a politician flapped his gums and made a truly offensive statement.

  8. vishalbheeroo March 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Social media has changed our lives but we’ve become such narcissists, intolerant to spew insults and drag people down on issues we understand very little. It no longer become perspective but more about the individuals. Had few Twitter spats and been called a traitor, hailing from Muslim ancestors and what not. That’s the whole point: We disgress from the idea or philosophy and make it personal.
    A brilliant post:)

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