If someone was interested in knowing why you think Prime Minister Narendra Modi isn’t a messiah, they would pay you to tell them like they do my fellow Mint Lounge columnist. If they wanted you to make a living explaining to those liberal idiots that he is the best thing that’s happened to India in decades, you would have the same space elsewhere. You can tell the world your two steps to solving the Kashmir crisis when Barkha Dutt invites you on her show (at least you know she’ll let you speak). If you really feel the urge to spill, you could take the initiative and organize a smoky adda on The Age of Divisiveness with some like-minded pals (or is that an oxymoron these days?).
But nobody cares about your politics on Facebook.
Not your school friends, your colleagues nor your family (except your dad but you know he would rather hear your voice than read your lamenting/hateful status updates). As for the scores of non-friends who are part of your online family because you were too polite to click i-g-n-o-r-e when they sent you that dreaded request, do you really care whether or not they are interested in your politics? You’ve probably already muted them after you discovered their love for US presidential candidate Donald Trump and, even worse, that they were eager students at the Paulo Coelho Wisdom Academy that only shares its pearls in 32pt font. Besides, now that they know where you stand in the Battle of the Bastards, they’ve probably muted you too.
If there’s anything worse than someone who updates their profile picture every single day or posts daily love notes to their partner on Facebook (and nowhere else I’m sure), it’s the person who feels the need to share as he catches up on all the horror that’s unfolding across the world.
I’m scared to tell him, but I almost unfriended the husband today.
When I casually logged on to Facebook this morning, I was greeted with an oozing, festering, pus-filled, bloody boil perched cheerily on top of my timeline. Then I realized it was the husband who had shared the horrific hate speech (incidentally, an old one which I had heard before) with an accompanying us vs them rant written by someone I didn’t know.
I went to the husband’s timeline and saw a series of grave posts with scary titles such as “ISIS are dogs from hell” and “I, Militant”.
The husband and his hapless timeline were clearly up-to-date on all the news about Kashmir. He had shared death tolls, a note written by one of his friends on how Kashmiri Pandits should take it easy, and an article on “Delhi’s flawed policy playbook in the Valley”. In addition, he had posted all the thoughtful articles that appear on the public interest data journalism website he edits. In short, he was running his own curated news agency on Facebook.
Even Babyjaan didn’t stand a chance in this flood of current affairs.
Forgive me husband—a spouse who conducts a postmortem of your Facebook updates is at least as vile as one who spies on your SMSes. I also know you’re not the only one who uses the social network for friends and family as a place to proudly proclaim your political beliefs—repeatedly.
But why turn Facebook into Twitter without trolls?
While fights do break out on Facebook, studies have shown that most of us don’t engage with political posts. You can see that from the lack of likes, shares and responses to your sloganeering. What’s the point of stating your position? When was the last recorded instance of someone changing their view because of a friend’s Facebook update?
Why not just stick to recording life as it unspools? Right now on my timeline I see flapjacks just out of the oven, an ex-colleague snacking on a piece of a glacier in Alaska, a news anchor friend smiling widely as she poses with the famous author she’s always had a crush on, a five-year-old’s brilliant triptych of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel.
It’s not that I’m not political, or don’t care about what’s going on around me. I just prefer not to treat my Facebook friends as a captive audience sitting at my feet, listening wide-eyed as I chug my Bira (it’s back in stock) and throw some political wisdom their way.
One friend said Facebook was important because it allowed him to be in touch with cousins and classmates in the easiest possible way. It was a convenient “digital diary” to track his life. And the politics of hatred? “I have steered clear (for the most part) from taking the bait when otherwise sane friends get vitriolic over issues they can barely understand, let alone influence,” he said. Not that I’m defending the evil corporation that is Facebook, but that’s a different column.
Here’s how I operate on different social networks:
Facebook: My timeline is a mix of Babyjaan, my writing, promoting the organizations I work for, and random things—usually to do with fierce women—that make me happy.
Twitter: News and views. Essentially how the husband uses Facebook. With a dash of self-censorship because often, I’m not interested in knowing what the whole world thinks about what I just said.
WhatsApp: Argue, have no impact, exit or go silent, return. Repeat cycle.
Instagram: Babyjaan and the occasional half-hearted food/city picture.
Pinterest: I collect tips on how to kill ants and make bathrooms sparkle. I also collect pictures of brilliant recipes, crafty creations and astonishing school lunch-box ideas that I know I will never use.
Snapchat: I’m happy to report this one skipped my generation.
Going back to Facebook, though, I hope the husband doesn’t unfriend me after reading this column. Note to self: Stay fierce, Priya.
Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable every fortnight. She tweets at @priyaramani and posts on Instagram as babyjaanramani.
Also Read: Priya’s previous Lounge columns