Social media is a terrifying beast. Like all beasts, Twitter, Facebook and the rest can be tamed, caged and made to do a few tricks. But when it decides to jump out of the cage and have a go at someone, then god (of instant injustice) help the poor victim! Only someone who has been trolled mercilessly would understand what the social media could really do to reputations. Had Mahatma Gandhi been alive now, he would have perhaps learned that the real practice of ahimsa was in not blocking a troll.
But we at Outlook have been brave enough to get into the social media cage to create a unique event, the Social Media Awards, the first of its kind in the country. We called it ‘Awesome’, true to the awe-inspiring nature of the animal. After millions of people voting in the winners and the jury deliberations to select the lucky handful, we finally had a grand ‘awesome’ night in Delhi.
But for the Politician of the Year award winner, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, who stood us up (and the Pakistan High Commissioner, who was waiting to say salaam to her), we had a full house. Former deputy prime minister and possibly the next President, L.K. Advani, was the chief guest. The Congress, the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party and the mainstream Left had all turned up in great strength to cheer Outlook and the award winners. Of course, the ultra-left chose to stay away because the social media is a right-wing conspiracy of 140 bourgeois characters trying to rob radical millionaires of their unending essays.
The real supernova—whatever that means—was the Big B of all things Indian. There is no star like Amitabh Bachchan in India. At 74, he is still mobbed all the way in and out of an event. People melt before him, plead to get near him and never want to leave him. To be Bachchan is to suffer unlimited pain from an unlimited number of strangers. The hotel owner and his entire neighbourhood landed up for a photo-op with him, while someone outside the door kept on yelling that he was a dear nephew of Bachchan lost during a mela in a Hindi movie script. But then, Bachchan is used to it. He even calls his followers on social media his extended family and doesn’t block any of the trolls. Really brave, indeed!
Like the new national security doctrine, there ought to be a national selfie doctrine too. Ever-smiling Saina Nehwal was so badly attacked by the selfie hunters that she could not even move out of the hall. Someone who seemed totally lost was Member of Parliament from Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, Virendra Singh, who became famous when he insisted that his turban was more important than a visa to the US. If only other proud farmers from Punjab emulated his example! Hope Virendra Singh was adequately inspired by the Outlook event to invest in a smartphone and a Facebook account.
But our greatest regret was that we couldn’t convince the Troll of the Year to come over and collect the award and spew some venom on the stage. Well, there is always a next time.