(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
Ever since ‘deposed American President’ Al Gore “invented” it in the early 90s, the Internet and its early adopters have had an almost spousal relationship. From spending only an hour or two with each other every day in the beginning, to sleeping in separate rooms so as to give each other some ‘space.’ And thanks to the advent of social media, this married couple has been able to spice up its relationship through the magic of role-playing.
You can be a loser in real life, but you don’t have to play one on Facebook. It lets you showcase your life like you’ve always wanted other people to see it. Like a dystopian regime, you can simply edit out any unfortunate events that don’t fit the narrative that you have established for yourself and pretend that they never happened. Your life is simply one ginormous vacation spent making silly poses (ironically, of course!) in picturesque locations. You’re not currently stalking the object of your unrequited feelings; your relationship with them is ‘complicated.’ No, you never went to your friend’s bachelor party when you called in sick to work as you made sure your friends never ‘tagged’ you in any photograph. If you didn’t mention it on Facebook, then it probably never happened. Just because you use your real name, it doesn’t mean that anything about you has to be real.
And twitter is for exploring different parts of your personality. You’re not a jack of all trades; you’re an “exbert.” As long as you don’t say what you really think. Because do you really want people to know that you really care about normal human things? Haha, you’re so naive! Human emotions are for people on Orkut!
When the car bomb outside the Israeli embassy went off, the detectives on twitter had already solved the case even before the Delhi Police could begin ignoring all the clues and the central government could briefly wake up from its slumber to ‘strongly condemn’ the perpetrators. The exberts on twitter KNEW who exploded the bomb! It was Iran! No, it was Israel! Who are you kidding, it was probably America! Nay, it was our arch-enemy and future ‘foreign hand hall of fame’ inductee, Pakistan. Or maybe it was Xenu, the overlord of scientology who finally came back to collect all our souls and bury them in another earth like planet so we could repeat the same mistakes on another celestial body trillions of years from now.
Later in the week, the twittersphere went from playing the protagonist of a Tom Clancy novel to pretending to be a cynical bastard. Everyone seemed to have finally discovered that Valentine’s day is a ploy by stuffed white teddy bears to infiltrate every house in the world so that they can learn our secrets and then threaten us into submission and slavery. People were more than eager to display their non-affiliation to a hallmark holiday. Unfortunately, it was all for nought as the only people talking about valentine’s day were the ones who had vowed, a day before, to stay away from all social media because they did not want to be overwhelmed by the sappy sentimentalism of the pro-valentines day movement Twitter seemed to have been turned into a pageant with everyone vying for the title of ‘most ruthless takedown of love & relationships.’ The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Twitter is also for pretending to be someone ‘in the know.’ Take a widely circulated rumour, refer to it in ambiguous terms, mention a person or entity in power and viola, you are a bona fide insider! That is because people will believe anything about the object of their abject hatred.
When someone follows you or becomes your friend on a social networking website, they’re not really actually following you. They’re following the idea of you. The persona you have created online. The one which masks your sanctimony in mildly amusing jokes and links to a wide variety of interesting things. The persona which supports equality and outrages when someone somewhere says something inappropriate. The persona which says and does all the right things.
When you tweet with this false sense of security, your mask begins to slip and your tweets starts to reflect the real you. And you're oblivious to it, like the emperor is oblivious to his new clothes. People play along with your created image, praising your threads, when in fact, all they're doing is sniggering at the size of your dong.