Social media is a great leveller, and everyone’s an expert

To deify or to demonise. With a keyboard or pad to hammer and a wall to spout on, these are the extreme options exercised by average cricket fans. Like a weathercock, they heap encomiums when Dhoni & Co win and vent spleen when they don’t. In the good old days, there were just the “Letters To the Editor” columns with limited space to comment on issues. Today’s social media has made the users Editors in Chief of their thoughts, with absolute freedom to place in the public domain just about anything that provokes them.

Facebook and Twitter are great levellers. Here, everyone is an expert. And nothing engages the nation quite like cricket. What started as sarcastic posts like “If you want to watch India win, switch to hockey!” gradually degenerated into angry outbursts such as “Endowment Lectures by the Men In Blue. Dhoni on ‘Fast Outfield, Slow Fielders.’ Tendulkar on ‘The Mirage Called The Hundredth Hundred.’ Sehwag on ‘Senior-Junior, kya fayda?’ Gambhir on ‘Keeping Mum Helps and How’. And R. Ashwin on ‘Best Practices and How to Get Away from Them On the Field’.”

In a matter of five hours, the lampooning gave way to tongue-in-cheek posts: “For a change Kohli can show his bat proudly instead of his middle finger to the crowd.” And suddenly national pride is back. “And the Oscar for the best surprising act goes to Virat Kohli.” Or better still, “India did a Rajinikanth against Sri Lanka.” Mercifully, on cricket you can turn to tweets by the likes of Harsha Bhogle who reject the herd mentality that “Dhoni is letting it drift? But where are the bowlers to exert pressure?” As a wall post screams: “People who criticised Team India during the rough patch have no right to cherish their victory!”

We cannot point fingers at the authors. When a game becomes a religion, the glorious uncertainties are forgotten and miracles are expected every time. In the whole commentary, there were small regrets. “Just when Hockey was getting some limelight comes this win.”

What I find most heartening about Facebook are campaigns for causes; even a means to help people in distress. Remember the ‘Search For Thamana’ initiative in Chennai? A school girl put up a missing child’s picture and enlisted volunteers to hunt for her. How exactly she disappeared still remains a mystery. With government web sites still quite outdated and many bureaucrats active on the site, this space is gradually turning into an effective grievance corner. Officials get direct messages, chat windows pop up and some are even tagged on status updates.

I know of IAS aspirants who browse through status updates as closely as they read newspapers, just to get different perceptions on contentious issues. One of them, who has chosen public administration as an optional subject, recently told me that she finds wall posts quite like mini editorials.

And if you’re preparing a speech, you don’t really need to reach for the Toastmasters Almanac. Walls are replete with witty one-liners and smart alec comments. Sample this: “Men are like Bluetooth – connected to you when you are around but search for other devices when you are away. Women are like Wi Fi – see all available signals but connect to the strongest one!”