When Opinions Are Like________ And Everyone Has One
A few years ago, when social media was not yet as ripe as it is today, whenever I finished a book or a movie I liked I couldn’t wait to head to school/college the next day and discuss it with my friends. Sometimes the discussion would be with my area friends and I would head out to their house, call them out, mostly by ringing their door bell and informing their dad/mom whoever happened to open the door that a gang of us friends were waiting in the street for their son and rushing back out to the street before they could stop us and ask us about our marks in the latest exam. And after such hectic efforts to collect a minimum quorum necessary to argue incessantly we would all adjourn to the nearby tea shop or potti kadai (pavement shop) or even the street corner- preferably a brightly lighted on underneath a street lamp –to make out facial expressions when arguing and then finally I would lay out my opinions regarding that book or movie which made me walk all the way up to their homes and then my friends would proceed to offer their candid comments on my taste of movies or books and lay threadbare my other foibles just to pass their time. After such a refreshing talk with alternate viewpoint’s we would all disperse to our respective streets/homes after promising to meet again soon under the same street lamp. And those were simpler times and not that long ago too- and definitely not from the Jurassic or Triassic era if that’s what you are thinking.
Now switch over to the current scenario. Suppose I read a book or saw a movie I liked- say a new author I have recently discovered or a classic film I just happened to download and watch on a boring day. I just have to post that information online on my Facebook and Twitter feed (or instagram a picture while actually doing it) and voila, the opinions fly in even without asking, even before I have finished posting. Friends, strangers, friends turned strangers and strangers turned friends are all actively commenting on my choice of the book/movie, offering me critical analysis of the novelist/director, recommending other unheard works from his/her oeuvre and generally being too helpful in educating me. And that’s just on facebook.
On twitter the situation is even more drastic. Critics and trolls will crawl out of the woodwork where they would have been long in hiding (just following my tweets silently) and treat my posting my opinion on the book/movie as an open invitation to offer their opinion of me, my behavior in my personal life, my opinon of narendra modi and my lifestyle choices. The open forum of twitter where you don’t have the option of “accepting friends” aka facebook makes it even easier to get trolled by anonymous (and some not so anonymous) trolls. The only option would be to either block them (and miss out on all the fun of being called an imperialist/british loving/macaulayputra running dog for preferring English over Hindi as a national language for united India) or in shifting to a protected tweets only mode which is simply like hollering alone in a locked room while the dogs bark outside. Neither of which appeals to my sense of humour. But sadly despite all that vim and vitriol real opinion on real issues never seem to happen on twitter. Everyone seems desperate to show off and impress others with their felicity over the 140-character format. Brevity in words is unfortunately taken to mean paucity of thoughts, original thoughts I mean.
And when all this pseudo-intellectual shit gets heavy on me, I post my opinions on Insta, where people (from world-over) instantly grant me likes and heart me- even if their ‘net connections are so poor that they can’t even see my post which has not yet loaded on their mobile apps and still take the time to comment “good”, “great”, “wonderful”, “fill in any other generic compliment you can think of” just so I would remember and repeat the compliments the next time they post something. An intellectual conversation is never on the cards on insta- unless it’s a post on feminists when you are sure to get more comments than likes as everyone and their aunt have an opinion on feminism.
Anyway the point of this post is that unlike the simpler older times when the discussion was instant (give or take 24 hours) and mostly on topic, the use of social media to solicit opinions on our recent reads/watches mostly leads us off to unexpected areas where we are forced to either update our knowledge after accepting our ignorance of the topic we first posted upon (say on the comparative acting talents of Humphrey Bogart/Grace Kelley/Sidney Poitier) or we are forced to defend our opinions incessantly (like why we like chetan bhagats books despite the man being a mountebank). This ceaseless arguing, for weeks on together (whenever any idiotic stalker goes and likes our old post’s to bring it back up on the TL for further comments and discussions again and again) saps all the thrill and excitement of discovering something new and trying to share it with everyone or at least with our own close circle of like-minded friends. So much so, that nowadays I desist from announcing my excitement at my discoveries online. I prefer to hoard the emotions, gloat over them in private and if filled to overflowing I try to turn down the excitement a notch by writing a blogpost on it, of course with comments disabled for my peace of mind. So, far from social media being a great tool to harness contrary opinions and diverse views, the reality is that it’s the same shit all over again. And this way you don’t even have the pleasure of punching someone in the face when they disagree with you.
So tell me dear readers, do you like to post your opinions on social media when something new excites you? Or do you just want to pick up a phone, call a friend and talk it out with them? Which is your choice of poison?