Love and loathing on Twitter: So how much is too much?

Because everyone’s case is being taken and every private detail is being served up for public consumption. And before you raise your voice of dissent you will be told that’s the price you pay for being on this public platform!

It all began, as far as we in India are concerned, with the sanskari babu ji becoming the butt of all bad jokes on Twitter. Social networking addicts laughed out loud and rolled on the floor, got up and laughed some more at the cost of TV serial and movie patriarch Alok Nath. ‘What Is The Full Form Of ALOK ... A LOT OF KANYADAANS ...,’ read one of the tweets. ‘Alok Nath got a dog..and he barks Bowji,’ read another. And then tweeples lost interest in the Nath as soon as they had found it and moved on to ‘failed actor’ Neil Nitin Mukesh. ‘Neil Nitin Mukesh can draw the Indian tricolor in one brushstroke.. #nnmjokes,’ read a tweet from @isanzc, while another of his tweet went on to attack Neil more personally, saying: ‘Neil Nitin Mukesh can never give you company. He’s always a crowd.. #idioms #nnmjokes.’

But the jokes and the fun people thought they could have with the personal lives of others suddenly seemed to have stretched a bit too far with the death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of union minister Shashi Tharoor. Sunanda was found dead after ‘getting distressed by some unauthorised tweets’ that leaked out after Shashi Tharoor’s Twitter account was allegedly hacked and the details of his ‘affair’ with Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar became public.

But columnist and film producer Pritish Nandy refuses to blame social media for the recent happenings. ‘Women are vicious. They will be vicious on roads, in homes and in bedrooms. And so will they be on Twitter. A woman suspected her husband of having strayed and she reacted in a particular way and that came out on Twitter,’ Nandy says.

On people sharing personal details of famous people on Twitter, Nandy says, ‘When you create a liberal media, it will extract a price from you. The society has changed and so have the rules of running it. Nobody is sacrosanct. We are not living in the times where people hang the prime minister’s photo in their houses and offices. Even the PM is not sacrosanct.’ ‘You can’t claim privacy when you have years of public life and you are on a social media platform such as Twitter,’ Nandy adds.

Comedian and Indian actor Vir Das agrees with Nandy on how social media can’t be blamed for all that is going wrong. ‘You cannot censure one million people. When you come on Twitter, you must know that. You have to get used to how the medium treats you while you are learning to use it,’ Das says.

‘What happened in the Sunanda case is very sad, but one can’t blame Twitter for it. If you use a public platform you can’t be thinking privacy,’ Das says. The actor goes on to say that there is no moderate way of using a public platform. ‘I am a comedian. People either like me or hate me. There is no middle way. It’s the same thing with Twitter, either people say good things or they say bad ones, but you should be prepared to take it all in your stride,’ he adds.

On the trend of poking fun at others, Das says, that it’s part and parcel of the game. ‘You should be able to understand that a joke is just that and not react negatively. I will be perfectly okay if somebody cracks a joke on me, but if somebody gets personal, I will get back at that person. But I won’t cross my limit. That’s how it is on this platform. And I am sure everybody else takes it in a lighter vein too. Neil, I know, is a fine guy and must have taken it lightly,’ he says.

Nandy says the amount of tomfoolery is little when compared with the serious debates that happen on the platform. ‘Twitter creates a more irreverent society. The problem is that there has been too much of reverence in society so far and I am happy to see that going out,’ he says, adding, ‘Freedom comes with a price and society must be ready to pay.’

But what about those who are being laughed at. Alok Nath says, ‘I was deeply affected by the jokes on me when it started. However, I have made my peace and I am now enjoying it.’
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