Social media sites are where the pulse of the common man is felt

Stories that make for dinner-table conversations usually find their way to Facebook walls, or timelines for those who, as a post lamented, have been “tricked” into the new format. A tale of two events that played out in the social media, one tragic and the other emotional, in some measure, betrayed our obsession with ‘glamorous issues’. Rahul Dravid laying to rest his willow up in the loft most definitely deserved all the adulatory ‘we will miss you Mr. Dependable’ comments, the likes and the threads.

While I don’t, for a nano second, grudge the ‘About the Wall On the Wall’ references in cricket crazy India, the murder of a young IPS officer by the mining mafia in Madhya Pradesh did not seem to provoke enough outrage to find the kind of expression on Facebook that it should have. An aberration or a convenient ‘mine’ our business stance? There were the odd tweets. ‘When will we get fed up? When will we give ourselves a deadline?’ But this was way below the minimum support posts. Or do we need an Anna Hazare fast again to clear our seemingly clogged sensors? Is activity on the social media sometimes directly proportional to mainstream big-brother coverage? Not quite. At least, not in this case, which was front page news and a top story on television bulletins, with ample scope for the ‘post at site’ syndrome.

That it could well be the other way around is no longer an exaggeration. These sites are where the pulse of the common man is felt. This is what often gives rise to a surfeit of story ideas, both hard news and offbeat. Facebook and Twitter are like manna from heaven to most journalists – not just because they function as a source of information and many a tip-off. They are a magic platform to post story links, even video links, as bonus readership or viewership. Not just for working journalists but for NGOs too. ‘Dow Shall Check Facts’, a hard hitting rebuttal by an environmentalist to an article on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, has got considerable traction. The responses to a Facebook link would usually far exceed comments on the original piece. That is because the medium lends itself to more convenient interaction.

Don’t ignore the angst fast-forwarded. Our dear old Finance Minister has a sea of prescriptions for the economy. And oodles of free advice, perhaps even prophylactic doses from the common man desperate for real relief from inflation, rather than mere placebo steps. Brace yourself for stinging limericks on the budget. On this subject, a whacky comment against the picture of an actor, well known for item numbers, outside Parliament caught my attention: “Now Ministers don’t have to watch stuff on their phones!”

A picture of the Indian kabaddi team, standing on the road with their trophy, allegedly without Government-provided conveyance to reach their homes has been widely commented on. What the mainstream media may have missed or not made a big deal about, mercifully, got some attention on this space.

And finally, “I’m leaving Facebook. The ride here has been a blast. I’ve made tons of friends. I’ve enjoyed the wit and humour on the site. But I’ve decided to spend time with the family. So see you after lunch.” The sort of shared post that sets apart an addict from a user. A survey had once revealed that an average youngster spends upto 6 hours on Facebook, many ‘chatting the night away’, some logging in before brushing their teeth every morning. The urge to put out personal information at way-too-frequent intervals – quite like a radio jingle; ‘I am eating a burger. I think I added too much mustard. I burped’ – is beyond my ken. I heard of a Facebook status message on a rollicking time a person was having at a beach, which was used by an insurance company to turn down a medical-related claim by its customer who pretended to have sustained a fracture. Let minute-by-minute updates remain the preserve of news channels. Don’t we have enough of that anyway?