At last count, according to the live ticker on internetlivestats.com, there are more 3,098,325,627 internet users in the world. That’s more than 3 billion lives being lived online. India has the third highest internet population after China and USA at 243,198,922. We are living in the times of online emoting in real time. GIFs, YouTube videos and social media posts are manipulating our emotional quotients in our search for constant personal validation. The online world may very well be dealing with a business of human vagaries, and overtly contributing to our consistently adapting mental health. The internet also has helped small business enterprises, even like this one, create their own place in the world wide web, that we are so seemingly untangled in. But we are all competing for the same bits and bytes of humanity. Our language is changing from corporate to casual, from English to dolan, from poetic to banal, from respectful to profane. Our visual vocabulary is too adapting from long form to under 3 minutes, from surreal to succinct, from shots that evoke quiet contemplation and a sense of awe to videos that go for loud, trailer-sized, lurid impact: videos that can and will go viral.
This past month, I have been part of two such viral videos. I’ve been on Reddit twice, 9gag once, in innumerable blog posts and part of two trending hashtags on Twitter. The subject matter included a selfie, an image makeover, and a response to a canceled show by a famous comedian. In real time, I must have spent a good five to six hours of reacting to consistent notifications on my phone that ran into hundreds in a matter of minutes. The conversation veered from enlightened to obscure to downright idiotic and eventually into mindless rage. The comment section became a source of major entertainment, and made me on occasion guffaw at it’s incredulous stupidity. It follows a top-down model, really. All comment sections are the same. The first few comments were good, appreciative, some were confused at the content, and in no time the ragers took over the medium. Running text gave way to ANGER IN CAPS LOCK. Choicest of abuses, rants and counter-rants took over and in the end it became almost jihadist in tone. “Oh die you stupid bitch! You don’t know how to wear pink” was the most I got, while my co-stars (the day I would use this word) had to deal with things becoming an Indo-Pak issue, some Right wing gibberish - against Bhartiya sanskar and all. The trending hashtag (#TwitterMeetsArnab) met it’s antithesis (#ShameOnArnab). While the other viral video (#TheSeinfeldSituation) gained much momentum in international quarters, with misspelling and bad grammar ruling the roost.
Two weeks of high-octane engagement is what I managed to attract, without being in the direct eye of the storm. Really, none of those things were about me, yet I was in the centre of it all. For most part I was unscathed on account of my comparative anonymity. But truth be told, it was an overwhelming experience. It seemed the storm will not settle, but it did. Soon #MyChoice became the call of the internet from where I stand. And ironic enough, it was choice that got us here in the first place.
Here’s a recap in case you all missed it, please do exercise your right to view or ignore. The world has moved on, but I got to live #TheViralSituation for a while.