Posts and tweets as votes?

It was promoted and to use television jargon, ‘teased’ , quite like a potential Bollywood blockbuster. As if on cue, the social media went overboard over Rahul Gandhi’s ‘First Day, First Show’. It’s one thing to have ‘ball by ball’ or rather ‘answer by answer’ commentary . But aren’t reviews even before the much hyped interview was aired, over the top? I’m referring to those who jumped the gun with their prophecies like “I bet you will hear more of Arnab than his star interviewee.” Others complimented the Gandhi scion for his decision to face a tough interviewer and answer what ‘The Nation Wants To Know’.

During the interview and soon after it was over, timelines erupted with sarcasm and derision. And this is the first time I think a topic was trending in almost equal measure both on facebook and twitter. A dip stick survey will reveal that most facebook posts fall into the personal realm – family & friends, feats and feasts, resolutions and ‘selfies’. Which is why facebook is often regarded as a tame, perhaps vegan version of twitter. Few walls are splashed with political punditry. This time was different. I’ve noticed that users who usually steer clear of politics, posted updates on their take or take away from the interview. Many were scathing. An hour into the show, Srinath Rajaram’s timeline analogy of a student in an examination writing whatever he studied regardless of the questions, triggered a wave of similar spoofs – either bursts of improvisation or telepathy. Naveen Chowdary Tummala launched an anaphoric “We must empower people…” broadside. Nabarun Ghosh was just as unsparing with his cheeky ‘Mere Paas Empowerment Hai. Mere Paas RTI Hai. Mere Paas Youth Hai. Mere paas Ma Bi Hai.” The Singer & DJ even spotted an AMUL hoarding that carried the “Najawab Interview” and posted a picture on his wall. As facebook was slowly digesting the overkill, Mathangi Srinivasamurti summed it all up with “the buzzwords in India today – System, Empowerment, Change, Women, Youth…” ‘Frankly Speaking’, I have never seen facebook so caught up with a particular subject.

As the interview was playing out, I kept looking up twitter as well. Surprisingly, none of Rahul’s most vociferous critics had tweeted midway. Not even Narendra Modi ,who, perhaps for strategic reasons, chose not to tweet about the interview at all. Which I thought was a good thing as it’s always advisable to judge, if at all, at the end of any performance. Some retweeted barbs from followers like RTI standing for ‘Return To Italy’. Newslaundry tweeted a version of ‘The Interview That Wasn’t’ in its ‘Criticles’ section.

Across the social media, if you cut out the jibes and content that cannot fall under the ‘fair comment’ category, the responses made for humorous reading. They were quite like wisecracks at theatres, that can sometimes be more entertaining than the movie playing on screen!

The verdict is now out – as loudly as you can possibly fathom. The social media is the biggest reviewer of the mainstream media. That’s how it’s meant to be. Viewers and readers are the jury. Obviously, the entire army of facebookers and tweeple may not be qualified to sit in judgment. But a good number of discerning people exist on this platform. And they are watching.

What made folks on the social media so interested in what they saw, apart from the fact that this was Rahul Gandhi’s first television sit down interview? I interpret this as a clear indication that the common man is today very concerned about the outcome of the 2014 election. Twitter has a lion’s share of political partymen or at least those who owe allegiance to one party or the other. There is nothing new about caustic tweets. But to me, facebook, overflowing with wall posts on a political issue from people I know are apolitical, is what brings up my antenna. To those who say that tweets and posts and Like buttons are not votes, it’s time to think again.