Draw the line, not flak

Updated: Jul 22, 2019, 07:58 IST | Suman Mahfuz Kazi

After actor Rytasha Rathore enraged netizens by being irresponsible towards a stray, experts tell you how to abstain from getting bewitched by online appreciation

Draw the line, not flak
Illustration /Uday Mohite

It has been three decades since the World Wide Web launched and we're still rolling with punches, for the vagaries of the virtual world never cease to surprise. One moment you're an Internet star and the next, a trolled malefactor. Look at what happened with Mumbai-based actor and social media influencer Rytasha Rathore, who went from being a boss lady to a "dumb woman" in a matter of hours."

It happened such, that Rathore — who has 61.8K followers and was lauded earlier this year, for breaking stereotypes and flaunting her curves in a bikini — set out for a class from Versova on a humid afternoon. Having spotted a cute stray pup, she invited her into the auto. Then, after she was done uploading pictures and videos with the dog, she left her in Khar, 8.9 km away from her natural habitat. When Rathore emerged six hours later, ironically, from a self-awareness class, hell had broken lose online.

Rytasha Rathod
Rathore and the misplaced dog

Perhaps the actor was hoping for likes, but the plan backfired, and people were angry with her, for relocating the dog. Rathore made it worse by responding to the reprimands irresponsibly, and saying, "Khar was an upgrade from Versova." Eventually, she had to apologise.

Rytasha  Rathod Social media
Following the post, Rathore faced backlash from all corners

But the one question that everyone asked, animal lovers and crestfallen followers alike, was, to what extent should you go for the sake of your feed. Infuriating as the incident is, it takes a lot of compassion to consider the fact that Rathore's actions were in fact, not intentional. So, what was it that made her act so callously? Is it okay to rely on the marketability of emotions, in this case, those attached to animals, for the sake of a few posts?

Be social, be responsible

Nahid Dave
Nahid Dave

Consultant psychiatrist at Insight Clinic, Nahid Dave, says it is important to recognise why people post on social media and there are many aspects to it. To begin with, the virtual world provides a platform to express yourself, but has over the years, also become the space for validation. "When you see a hundred likes for your post, it gives you a dopamine kick and so, you keep engaging in it over and over again. Social media also gives you the opportunity to project your life in the way you want others to see it," Dave elaborates, adding that sometimes, people rely on the happy-go-lucky nature of the virtual world to fill the void in their real lives. From the consumer angle, she explains, it works such that following someone with a relatively more exciting life helps open up a window to places, foods and experiences missing in your own. "It's not just the words, the pictures, too, have a radial and olfactory impact on your senses."

It's this allure that often keeps us uncontrollably hooked as users and consumers. This impacts our psyche in a strange way, often leading to unnecessary introspection. "Sometimes, people lose touch with their reality because they're so engrossed with their phones and in observing the lives of others. For example, when you see a couple on their honeymoon, it creates the impression that they're happy, with no ups and downs. And then you question your own happiness" she adds. These thoughts of self-doubt disappear, when you receive admiration online, too. "It is then that you start treating every instance as a photo opportunity, whether you're travelling or out for a family meal. This further leads to dampening personal relationships," Dave warns, pointing to the vicious and cyclic nature of Internet obsession.

Damage control

It follows then, that much of who we are online is not even real, and being addicted to it could lead to a blurring of lines. "It's almost like an alternate personality," Dave shares, adding that it is possible that Rathore, who is otherwise loved online, is inherently a fatuous person. So, in the spur of the moment, she perhaps, didn't account for the backlash or the way things would play out as she was more fixated on getting the post out.

Aanam Chashmawalla
Aanam Chashmawala

But there are ways to ensure that such a mishap doesn't occur. Popular blogger Aanam Chashmawala suggests that the key lies in finding the balance between what works statistically and what works organically. Intuition here plays a huge role, and mindfulness, as Dave proposed, helps with that. Elaborating on ways in which you can be more responsible as an influencer, and on social media in general, she says, "As someone who's constantly saying no to stereotypes, I try to do my bit by extending that principle to my work frame as well. The main filters I keep on my content, is by asking myself if I would be talking about this organically and if it is relevant to my audience. So, you'll never find me endorsing a skin lightening cream, for instance."

Speaking about the addictive nature of her work, and the impact social media has on your health, Chashmawala recommends practices that can help. "I went through a fairly low phase at one point, when I wasn't sure if I could keep up, but I decided to focus on the positive. I started making sure that I didn't scroll at the start of my day. That helped me stay productive. I also began keeping track of my screen time," she tells us.

Ami Savla
Ami Savla

But what does one do, when things have already gone awry? Is there a way to salvage your reputation? "One must realise that each person is entitled to his/her opinion. Hence, it is important to ensure that there are no loopholes. Voice your opinion after a couple of hours of reflection, not at the spur of the moment, check your language twice and ensure nothing you post is contradictory to your personal philosophy. This way, you can be more careful, but accept the fact that at the end of the day, you do not have any control over the way people perceive you. The only thing we can do is keep our intentions clear and be smart with what we put out," shares Ami Savla Hemani, founder of Socialize Store that helps brands leverage their social media handles. Hemani cautions that it is important to not let one post ruin your online experience, and wait it out till the waters are calmer.

Perhaps that's what Rathore is now trying to do by turning her account into a private one, after sharing a public apology. However, in the larger picture, it is not just her actions that matter, but also the finer details, where one is congnisant of how and when to draw the line, despite the heady pull of the Internet.

Don't displace dogs

Nirali Rohit karodia
Nirali Rohit Koradia

Even when a pet owner takes their dog for a walk, it's obvious that new dogs do not allow them into their territory. This facet of a dog's nature is known even to those who are not necessarily compassionate towards animals. So, by relocating a dog, you're putting them in danger. Not only that, it also disturbs the balance of their population in both the areas and leaves a deep psychological impact on the animal.
Nirali Rohit Koradia, animal welfare worker

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