The objective of this piece, amongst other things, is to offer my sympathies and suggestions to those who are on the right of centre and who feel stressed because of their social media interactions or who feel hesitant to express their socio-political views due to a variety of reasons. While I may sympathise with those on the left once in a while, I am under no obligation to offer them my suggestions – they don’t even need them. I would also like to clarify at the outset that these suggestions are based on my own experiences and may not necessarily work for everyone. Having been reasonably active with my social media interactions, there are three elements which I think are crucial – content (what to say), language (how to say) and magnitude (how much to say). I will be dealing with each of these one by one before I delve into some other critical aspects.
In this section, we will try to understand what sources of information can be used to gather the ammunition we need for our social media battles. To begin with, it’s a must to have absolute clarity, conviction and dedication in terms of your ideology and about the side of the spectrum you are on. It’s not easy for everyone to have a deep understanding of all political, social, historical, civilisational, cultural, legal and economic issues. However, basic understanding of relevant issues is vital, which makes reading very important. Those who do not have the time and the patience to read books on a variety of subjects can rely on reading articles on different platforms. After being active on social media for a while, you would know which individuals, portals and publications are on your side and which are not. Observe the patterns in the messaging of their posts and exercise your judgment. From time to time, it helps to read what is being said and written by the other side also. This gives you an idea of the potential arguments you might face and will prepare you to counter them better.
Watching television news and debates might give you a momentary adrenalin rush, it does not provide any useful understanding of issues though. While the decibels on some channels may be lower than the others, the accuracy of their content and the quality of their analysis is mostly below average. There are channels that very smartly use words like “allegedly” and “reportedly” to give you the impression that they are being neutral, but they are in effect conveniently diluting the news to further their agenda. You will also notice that when a news item is in line with their agenda, they never use these words. The number of panellists you see on news channels these days acting as experts on anything and everything is simply unbelievable. It is also noticeable that spokespersons of political parties are the most honest and genuine people on news channels; they are just doing their job. The most dangerous ones are those who appear as senior journalists, experts and neutral political commentators. In times wherein one can’t even find neutral cricket commentators, it’s amusing to see neutral commentators on something as partisan as politics.
Human beings, by their very nature, can’t be neutral – all of us have varying degrees of biases on issues that matter to us. It is therefore always safer to trust someone who openly reveals which side they are on rather that those who claim to be neutral. Also, do not trust everything on face value; even challenge your own thoughts from time to time to strengthen your intellect and skills. Instead of wasting your time on news channels, it will be much more useful if you can watch documentaries, interviews and the wide range of other shows we have online. Even though the makers have their own agenda there as well, these are at least better researched and thus give you a deeper perspective. Depending on which side these makers belong to, you can use the information and analysis to your advantage.
All news platforms are in the business of peddling fake news to varying degrees. Some might be more subtle than the others, but there are certainly no exceptions. So before sharing or quoting any news report, please verify its accuracy to ensure that your credibility is maintained. All supposedly prestigious and globally renowned media houses (all left leaning, unsurprisingly) do this and despite having been exposed several times, their followers continue to believe in them and defend them. In a similar way, we must also continue to support media houses which are on our side. Nowhere does this mean that we should share a fake news story that they may have published. Remember, the objective is to maintain your credibility without allowing the other side to use your misplaced guilt against you.
This element is the least complicated and the easiest to understand. First things first, never ever use abusive language in anything that you post – it’s an absolute non-negotiable. When you use abusive language in your argument, no matter how good your content is, the focus shifts entirely to your language. This may result in all your effort towards having effective content going waste and may cause permanent damage to your social media reputation. It is possible to be assertive, scathing and hard-hitting in your arguments while maintaining a civil language. Those who do not use a civil language find it extremely hard to survive, have no respect from anyone and are a liability for their own side. Without being abusive, if you want to be hurtful in your arguments, it’s a personal choice and also depends on your target audience. You may afford to be slightly hurtful on Twitter as the people you interact with are generally not connected to you personally but doing that on Facebook may damage personal relations.
Each social media platform has its own unique flavour and you need to use them strategically to narrate the story that you really want to. These are mediums to tell your audience who you are and how much you want them to know about yourself is completely in your hands. In your initial days of using every platform, it’s advisable to be observant and restrained. Once you understand which is the platform that you find the most liberating, start expressing yourself on it. You can use multiple platforms to present different facets of your personality and outlook or you may use all of them in a unidimensional manner also – the choice is completely yours. It really depends on what your overall objective is. Personally, I have found Twitter to be the most effective medium for open, unrestrained and matured political interactions.
If your online political interactions are mostly with people personally connected to you, you need to be extra cautious – not everyone has the same level of maturity. You may have heard your right wing gurus say that their leftist friends don’t matter to them – it’s totally up to you to decide that for yourself. If your connections are mature enough to have open political debates without taking anything personally, you are lucky. In most cases though, you will see them gradually feeling uncomfortable with you in their circles. This is not because they do not like you, it’s because for the first time their long standing socio-political outlook has been questioned and challenged, and this can make anyone feel uncomfortable. India being an inherently left leaning country with her education system been strategically designed to produce minds that are made to believe that their value systems are the only progressive, modern, intellectual and inclusive value systems, it is difficult for the products of Macaulisation to listen to, let alone respect any differing opinions. When they are faced by those who can effectively articulate their alternative views, the intrinsic intolerance of the left comes out in many surprising ways.
It is my view that people from either side should not feel offended as a result of heated debates on socio-political issues. So never back down, always assert your point clearly, be ready to take the punches and have the strength to give it back.
Let us now briefly go through some other themes which are important to understand in order to make your social media interactions less stressful and frustrating.
Interacting with celebrities
Social media has a knack of giving an illusion that celebrities are easily accessible. The ability to comment on their posts or send them messages and the possibility of getting their response might make us feel that they are also a part of our world. However, this is far from true. And if you disagree with them on a socio-political issue, their response generally would not be pleasant. Even worse, you will be labelled a troll! In many cases, you will end up getting blocked. The everyday realities and challenges of our world are very different from their powerful and privileged world, and hence, one should never expect them to even understand, let alone relate to our experiences and perspective. Having said that, one should never hesitate to call out their hypocrisy. The opportunities of doing so are plenty and trust me, our voice impacts them much more than we can imagine. In real life, we interact with people who disagree with our socio-political views on a daily basis. These are people who are close to us and can be family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances. This, in a way, makes us immune to the wily social media comments to a great extent. Celebrities, however, live in their own bubble and are surrounded mostly by those who echo their views, which makes them more susceptible to disagreements.
Your admiration for celebrities for the work that they have done in their respective field should never come in the way of expressing your disagreements. You can continue to be a fan of their talent, craft or achievements and still criticise them for their socio-political stand. The hypocrisy of these high-achievers is on full display very frequently and opportunities to call those out should never be missed. You can see on a daily basis the way the left viciously attacks celebrities who take a right leaning stand and do not even spare sportspersons, male or female, who have won international laurels for the country. They even go to the extent of discrediting the talent and achievements of right leaning celebrities. For guidance, you may want to read an earlier piece I wrote criticising someone I admire.
The secularism conundrum
We Indians are systematically taught to hate our heritage and glorify the invaders that tried to destroy it. And we are perhaps the only major civilisational country to do that. The easiest and the most common ground to target the Indian right is secularism. However, the entire left and a large section of the right seems to miss the point that it is not actually secularism that we don’t believe in, but the pseudo-secularism that is rampantly practised by most political parties. India is inherently secular by her very nature and no historical and political events have been able to impact that. However, when it comes to the secularism of the 42nd amendment, we have our reservations. India’s political power has mostly been in the hands of those who just couldn’t stop romanticising over everything that came from our west and always looked down upon everything that is Indic. Our educational institutions, media, judiciary and the entire intelligentsia was also developed like that. As a result, the systemic flaws in our socio-political take on secularism continue to plague our nation even today. And when a system is flawed, no matter how long it has been there for, it’s our moral duty to challenge that.
Every year you would see the same set of people giving sermons on Holi, Diwali, Naag Panchmi, Rakshabandhan and possibly every other Hindu festival you can think of, but no one bats an eyelid on Eid al-Adha. The same self-proclaimed gender equality champions love talking about how discriminatory Karwa Chauth is, but you would never hear them utter a word against Triple Talaq. Organisations that are supposed to be neutral also practise this bigotry on a regular basis. And they are always on the lookout to give a caste-based spin to any issue just to suit their narrative. The entire Indian right, hence, should also keep in mind that always feel free to assert your Hindu identity, but never your caste identity. We are not the people who should be known by which caste we belong to. We should be known by our common Indic roots and heritage. And those who have an undying desire to celebrate the victory signs of gruesome invaders and forced morality of predatory imperialistic powers need to be met with equal force.
My final two cents
To those who think that they, in some way, were already aware of what has been said in this piece – excellent; it’s still helpful to have everything in one place. To succinctly summarise the overall messaging of this piece:
- Keep enhancing your awareness on the basis of relevant and reliable sources
- Be open and uninhibited in your expressions without being abusive
- Try to strike the right balance between being assertive and restrained; when in doubt, err on the side of being assertive – there are people who have your back
- Never hesitate in exposing hypocrisy and expressing disagreements
- Never try being neutral – it doesn’t work
The entire left-libertarian (I don’t call them liberals) ecosystem that controls the world was built on the foundations of mutual admiration clubs and on the principles of you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. In order to challenge them, you need to build a similar ecosystem of your own. It is imperative, hence, to always take a stand for those who are on your side and stick together no matter what.