Ranjona Banerji: Ping, post, paste, pretend. Repeat

Sep 20, 2017, 06:10 IST | Ranjona Banerji

Friends will ask you to do this to fight cancer, depression, suicide, Alzheimer’s and so on. But is this social media effort helping anyone?

Social media is where I spend a lot of my time. I cannot pretend otherwise. Pic for Representation/ Thinkstock
Social media is where I spend a lot of my time. I cannot pretend otherwise. Pic for Representation/ Thinkstock

Social media is where I spend a lot of my time. I cannot pretend otherwise. I tried to be one of those people who stuck to the old ways, who sneered at mobile phones, who laughed at people who claimed they wrote their columns on their Blackberries during traffic jams (children, these were ancient devices that were sort of smart phones, but not) and even snidely suggested one could tell by reading them. I curled my lip at people obsessed with online gaming - bar solitaire and free cell, because I managed to crack both of them and that's not really gaming is it? Just old-fashioned cards in a new format. Whatever. I was amazed that people had avatars of themselves on Second Life and that this was even a thing. I don't think it is any more. No one I know talks about it so either I am too old or they have got eaten up by their 'avatars' and now have no first life.

Then Twitter turned up, and you didn't need an avatar when you could exist as a blue egg. Now even that has gone. You can put just anything as your 'DP' and thus people use picture of celebrities as their display picture to confuse everyone. Then a blue tick appeared and you could separate the fake from real by the blue tick. Now it seems that anyone can apply for a blue tick so that's one more confusion left to sort out. Plus, a constant fight between the "gimme a tick" and "ticks are for dog's brigades". Twitter is good for fighting that way.

However - okay, you knew it was coming; too much praise, no? However, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by myself trying to be you, the users of social media and Internet related thingies remain as annoying as they ever were. You cannot escape that.

What is it with WhatsApp? As a former Luddite, my use for WhatsApp is as an alternative to messaging. But is it the same with everyone else? No. Instead, all day and all night, people send you the same videos, memes and jokes as everyone else. Your phone's storage gets clogged by this useless rubbish. Then the fools on your list of 'contacts' get overexcited about some lies and send them out. Once a lie is told on WhatsApp, it becomes the truth. Especially if it tells you that Narendra Modi is also the King of Siam and Jawaharlal Nehru was actually a Muslim.

And then there's Facebook. Without fail, every day, someone you know will put up a post about some sad disease, physical or mental. They will then use emotional blackmail so that you will "cut-paste and not share" this post about whatever it is. They will add some plaintive lines about how they know no one will do as they say but they are posting this anyway. Having guilt-tripped you into 'cut-pasting' their post, there is never any follow-up. Did the disease get cured? Was loads of money collected? Did a person suffering from said disease feel better because six people were coerced into 'cut-pasting'?

There is never any answer to these questions. Instead, without fail, similar posts will pop up after a while. Do this for suicide prevention, cancer, depression, Alzheimer's and so on. I do not know anybody who has any of these problems who feels better because this great Facebook effort.

Some do-gooders go even further. They will send you a private message to post a picture of a shoe on your timeline to cure breast cancer.

I suspect these are the same people who used to send chain mails in the olden days. Those postcards that told you that if you do not send the same message to 20 people within the next week, you will die a horrible death. And if you do, all your prayers will be answered, which were mainly to do with magically getting lots of money. Examples were given: Mohan of Aruppukottai, Tamil Nadu, did not post the messages and was mysteriously found dead within 10 minutes of not doing it. Grace of Boring, Oregon, won the lottery even as the last postcard dropped into the post box.

I have died many deaths, I confess. I have also concluded that people are the problem. Especially friends.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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