I have a habit of joining the party late which was also pointed out to me recently in another context by a senior member of the Twitter fraternity. So even though I had created an account a few years ago, I finally joined the party only sometime in January 2015.
As I took my first steps into this amazing online world, it was an intimidating journey through the confusing world of RTs & MTs. My first few weeks were disastrous. Once I saw what I thought was an outrageous tweet by @swamy39 and asked in all innocence if it was a parody account. He blocked me within seconds. And then a second Swami blocked me for reasons that I still haven’t been able to fathom. On the issue of protocol of saluting the flag, I firmly stood by our VP, Hamid Ansari, a man for whom I have great respect. Despite my newbie status, I thought I must make my voice heard. So on a thread by @praveenswami in support of the VP; I shared an article that also made the same point. Much to my shock, I was promptly blocked. Maybe he didn’t like the other publication, maybe he misunderstood me, maybe he mistook me for someone else, but hey, I was only supporting your point. Twitter celebrities are arrogant. Lesson learned. And I am pleased to report that I haven’t been blocked by anyone since.As the weeks went by, the world started to make more sense. My followers grew from three to a slightly more respectable double digit number. Though it took some time to get used to the unsolicited abuse, I soon realized that Twitter is fun. As I complete four months, I somehow feel qualified to comment on how to make sense of this mad, mad world.
So here is a 25 point primer with my observations:
- The Twitter world is divided into two main categories – the bhakts & the non-bhakts.
- As per my estimates, bhakts clearly outnumber the non-bhakts.
- Though they are known by many names, bhakts are fairly easily recognizable. Their most distinguishing feature is an abusive vocabulary which they use freely against those with opposing views.
- Another differentiating feature is free floating hatred. Targets for this hatred are liberals, seculars, leftists, supporters of Congress and supporters of AAP. Each category has been assigned a label – libtards, sickulars, naxals, Khangress & Aaptards. Collectively they are termed by bhakts as anti nationals.
- All bhakts feel they have been wronged in the past. A few radical ones also have a deep-rooted hatred for minorities which they express in most unpleasant ways towards religious symbols.
- Another special target for all hatred in the Nehru-Gandhi family, both its dead and alive members and anyone linked to it.
- Religion is a very important part of the equation and issues of Italian missionary connection are frequently brought up. If religion is not obvious from the name, people are urged to declare it like in the case of the shameful #ComeOutSimon campaign against @mihirssharma.
- Bhakts constantly reinterpret history in creative ways. Their research wing has recently discovered Ambedkar as a Hindu Nationalist.
- Even as the small sane segment among the bhakts continues to warn them to exercise restraint, in their enthusiasm, bhakts always overreact and score self-goals like #ShameOnArunJaitley.
- Most bhakts are admirers of @swamy39 who as an able leader reinforces their beliefs. So strong is his appeal that his most ardent fans are critical of Modi and believe in Swamy as their savior.
- While their abuse is generally universal, two categories deserve a special mention. Any Muslim or Christian name attracts more abuse than normal and female non bhakt journalists are a special target. @RanaAyyub and @sagarikaghose are fine examples. Rana of course ticks both the boxes.
- Coming to non-bhakts, they generally regard themselves as intellectually superior. They look down upon the bhakts and call them #lowIQSanghis. While this may not always be true, due to their nature, the bhakts get easily provoked and end up proving them right.
- Non-bhakts also attempt to copy the language of the bhakts but fall miserably short. The best they have come up with is BJPigs.
- Unlike the bhakts, the non-bhakts are not united. They are divided into different camps. The only feature that loosely binds them together is their dislike for Modi. They spend most of their time in ridiculing him, his ministers, his party members, his policies and any other thing linked to him even if it occasionally means overreacting. The eye is on each battle, not just the war.
- The INC supporters are an enthusiastic and vocal lot. When they cornered a bhakt in the past, he was always able to silence them by asking ‘where is RG’? This tactic sadly, may not work anymore.
- The AAP supporters who came out in full force to celebrate the Delhi election victory are now watching the AAP drama unfold in shocked silence. INC supporters consider them as cousins of bhakts and occasionally attack them when there is nothing else to outrage about.
- The leftists are an intellectual lot. They are open-minded in their thinking as they debate and outrage a wide range of national & international issues with finesse.
- All the categories of non-bhakts come together to criticize BJP government and the PM. News sites like @ANI_news provide sensational topics. Non-bhakts outrage and bhakts abuse those who outrage. The cycle continues. Sometimes it also runs in reverse.
- The assortment of babas, sadhvis and yogis make sure that the non-bhakts never run out of topics. If they do, other BJP politicians & associates like Shiv Sena pitch in. The PM himself is a master at it and can even throw math equations for all to solve. @Gen_VKSingh makes sure he contributes by introducing new words like #presstitudes to the vocabulary of bhakts.
- Mockery is big business on Twitter. Though both groups practice it, non-bhakts have a slight edge as they can use an intelligent play of words. All politicians, spokespersons and journalists are considered fair targets and RG is usually a sitting duck. Sometimes people stray from the script and mock sportspersons which is nearly always disastrous. Notable examples are @rupasubramanya mocking @MirzaSania’s ambitions and @TimesNow mocking the cricket team.
- When short of topics, attention shifts to inane issues like Modi’s LV lookalike shawl. Bhakts of course are not amused by any such flippant conversation and come out to defend in large numbers.
- Politicians on Twitter come in all shapes and sizes. While @ShashiTharoor is the original pro, @abdullah_omar is witty, @thekiranbedi is confusing and @swamy39 is entertaining.
- Others who deserve a special mention are the journalists on Twitter. Most can be classified in the bhakt/non-bhakt categories and only few are able to maintain some neutrality. Both groups feel that #presstitudes is an apt description of the other and cat fights are not uncommon.
- A few journalists also feel responsible to initiate debate even though it may mean speculative statements like one by @rahulkanwal that MMS would have gone largely un-noticed by French media if he was visiting Paris. The non-bhakts, particularly the INC supporters take the cue and carry the animated discussion forward.
- A group that deserves a special mention is that of accounts in name of personalities. One brilliant examples is @RushdieExplains that has now been renamed @IndiaExplained (update) There are also many other Twitter celebrities with followers running in hundreds and thousands, who never cease to surprise me with their creativity and humor. They provide a witty comment on every news item of interest to the masses.
Twitter is definitely not a world for the faint hearted. It is an ecosystem of predators, preys and decomposers at different trophic levels. While most of the twitterati ridicule and troll each other, it will never be so much fun if one group actually went missing from the equation. This nice but highly debatable thought brings me to the end of my troll bait. Have fun and happy tweeting to all!
Disclaimer – All views expressed are my own as a “Twitter nobody” so please feel free to disagree and outrage. You can also choose to ignore but please don’t abuse. I have not yet developed skills to abuse back and it will be an uneven match. All the folks mentioned by name - no offence was intended so hope you have a good laugh. Please don’t react by blocking me, I have enjoyed trolling you and I hope to continue doing so. And yes, please feel to follow me @samjawed65