There are two great ways of knowing what a person is like—without spending too much time with them. One, by their partner or who they choose to marry or have a relationship with. And two, by what they post on social media. Really, think about it. This deep scientific hypothesis comes from a decade of using social media and having ample time on hand. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that there are some social media stereotypes. Here are my favourites.
•The passive-aggressive ‘rudaali’-meets-sorcerer: Why would anyone post an update which says that if you don’t repost it, all your hair will fall out within seven years or your family will be struck by the bubonic plague or all sorts of bad luck will come befall you? Why? This is routine on Facebook. Someone will post a picture of either dogs dying or babies dying or babies and dogs dying. Below the picture it will read, “Say Amen for their souls to gain peace. If you don’t say Amen, a 100 years of bad luck will befall you and your dog will turn into Cujo and your child into Damian”.
You only wish they say the last part, which would make these gruesome posts worth seeing on your timeline. But no such luck. This is the new-age version of the witch doctor with a heart. They care about everything, but if you say you don’t care, then they’d rather you burn in hell than carry on with your pointless life. It’s our version of the “if you want happiness, sacrifice your first born at the altar. No? Then, may all your offspring, be born with Piles”. A deeply unhappy and sadistic bunch.
•The right-wing Troupe: You can write anything as your status—”just bought Paul Beatty’s new book” or post any picture— “best steak in town”, but their immediate reaction is to say, “why do you hate Modi? Do you know he is the Messiah and Carl Sagan rolled into one?” And god (Hindu god, of course) forbid, you post an article or tweet critical of Donald Trump or Narendra Modi or anything to do with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), you are done for. The right-wing troupe is ever ready to jump into your comments and abuse and keep making tangential remarks on how wonderful Trump/Modi/rightwingers are.
The level of discourse is the same as the people who say, “But Salman Khan is a very kind man. He donates to charity. Ergo, it’s okay if he killed a few people and endangered animals”. And it’s very easy to get a comment out of them. If you’re bored, you don’t even have to directly comment on any of their icons, just post something about not wanting to gas Jews or judge people by religion. It’s like winding up a doll and watching it swing into action, till it collapses. Great fun. Try it. Also, they’re the only ones who quote from Daily Mail and Wikipedia, as if they’re the gospel.
•High fidelity: Want to spot a couple who is having an affair or is on the verge of a divorce? Or knows the other half is having an affair? These are the ones who either keep posting pictures of themselves with their husband or wife with captions such as—“spending the Sunday with the love of my life” or “My best friend and my partner in crime” or “life doesn’t get better than this”. That said “partner in crime” or even the person posting is busy making goggle eyes if not the beast with two backs with someone else, is a different matter.
Some even have full conversations with each other in the comments section of their Facebook page. It’s all very cute. But you do wonder why they don’t just pick up the phone or walk into the next room and talk to each other? But then how would the rest of us know what a perfect couple they are? Silly me.
•The child prodigy parents: These are the ones who either can’t seem to get over that they actually made a child, or the ones who’ve realised that there is no better show-and-tell than your child. Because what bigger halo can there be, than to be called a hands-on parent? The former puts up every picture and utterance of their child. If they put two Lego blocks together, we must see them. If they say “Ga ga, goo goo”, we must be told about it. And then if you don’t comment on their post, there is much umbrage taken.
Then there’s the show-and-tell mother, who spends no time alone with their child, other than as an excuse for skipping work or as an alibi or decoy to meet a lover. But going by the copious posts about their child, you wouldn’t guess that without Ratna didi or Mary didi, the mother wouldn’t be able to even feed her child. The maid is literally asked to hand the child to the mother, get out of frame and if possible, click the picture of mommie dearest posing with her child for the two minutes she spends with her alone.
Earlier, we were brought out to recite poems and show guests how brilliant we were (I wasn’t, because all I could do was burp the vowels). Now kids are brought out for two minutes till the picture is taken, and then Mary didi can take over again.
•The encourager: These are the Good Samaritans of social media. They never have a nasty word to say about anything, they feel it is their moral duty to encourage all their friends on all their dodgy social media updates, however undeserving the praise be. These are the people we should hold responsible for encouraging people to put up very dodgy selfies of themselves. Or dodgy quotes. Or posts about how their child said the alphabet without hesitation at the age of 5.
Even if you’re Quasimodo and you put up a selfie of yourself, they’re the ones who you can bank on to say “looking so handsome”. These are the Mother Teresas of the social media world.
•The self-promotor: I confess, I’m the self-promoter. Every article I write and meal I cook and every pirouette my dog does, I must post it. I feel it is my social duty to do so. (Along with posting mean tweets about whichever political dispensation is in power currently.)
The self-promotor also keep posting about all their achievements—how many books they read in one day, how much their juniors or bosses praised them, how many Olive Ridley turtles they saved last evening, how much money they gave to charity. Going by their posts, you’d think they were Malala-meets-Steve Jobs-meets-Philip Roth. But they aren’t. But hey, why let facts get in the way of a good update?
•The pathological commentator: This position is equally shared by online stalkers and our parents. You can upload anything—a picture of your thumb, a picture of you posting on social media, any random update—and they will comment. It’s usually a pleasant and encouraging comment like “way to go”, “great job”. But a comment there will be.
My mother used to have a habit of writing “good job” every time I posted an article I wrote. Which while encouraging, made it seem like she was surprised I could string a sentence together, let alone be published somewhere.
•The over-sharer: These are the ones who will post whether they’re sad, despondent, penitent, have a stomach upset, have just had sex, fought with their boss, bought gifts for their wife or girlfriend, been praised at work. They also strongly believe that self-praise is the best praise. They may have been journalists for the last 40 years, but they’ll retweet every compliment they get. Almost as if they can’t believe that someone liked their work.
Also, as someone rightly pointed out on Facebook, if you’ve spent the last two years telling us every move of your girlfriend or boyfriend, the least you can do is include us in the breakup as well. Post a second-by-second update. Or a video will make do also. We need closure as well.
I better go now and count all the Facebook friends and Twitter followers I’ve lost following this article.
The sacrifices we must make for our art—and articles.