Watching NDTV’s We the Tweeple was fun if not for anything else but because one got to see a few familiar faces, people I have met in real life (@samitbasu, [His latest book, from what I have heard and based on the sample chapter provided, is a must-read] and @nilanjanaroy) and also because one got to hear India’s most famous anchor, someone known to never take herself seriously, concluding the segment by saying that the lesson of Twitter was not to take ourselves seriously. I felt this was also as good a time as any to do a post on Twitter, one that I have been meaning to do for a while.
The question I have been asked the second most number of times during my book tour (the first one being of course “Do you give ipods for the first comment?) was why I do not follow anyone on Twitter.
When I joined twitter, I felt there were two options open to me with regards to my follow policy.
To be truly equitable, and to make the social interaction be based on “friendship” rather than the rather weird-sounding follower-followee (I am the only Prophet type) relationship, I figured I should follow back everyone who follows me. That however would simply flood my time-line leading me not be able to read most of what was coming on the stream.
The other option would be to do what most people do—–follow a selective few.
Given how “personally” people take the whole concept of “following” [much more than say subscribing or not subscribing to someone’s blog feed], I figured that this selection would essentially make a very public distinction between two kinds of people—-those whose opinions I think I want to hear and those whose I do not want to (even though they want to hear mine). This I felt would be kind of impolite.
And so I decided to follow no one.
Unfortunately most people take that a show of arrogance and I have been told multiple times that the reason why many people don’t like me (one of course being because I am not “politically sound” i.e. “left liberal” ) is precisely because I do not follow anyone.( I still read people’s tweets but not through the act of “following”.)
Many months later, I was still struggling to handle this since visiting people’s twitter pages (which is what I do) is not an optimal solution. The reason I struggle is because the Indian Twitter-o-sphere confuses me, being a eco-pyramid of Amazonian complexity.
At the top there are the Olympian Gods—the Zeuses and the Heras. These consist of the uber holy cows —-political, sporting and cinematic mega-idols who use the medium to i) inform us about their latest release and how everyone on the sets of movie XYZ was like family and how @Mega-idol1 played a prank on @Mega-idol2 on the sets of said movie ii) tell us of their harrowing experience of being stuck in a toilet and tweeting their way out of it and iii) provide us intellectual nourishment of the kind “Muaah my darlings. Off to Cannes.” and “Back from Cannes. Too much work. Need a holiday.”
They can easily be recognized by the fact that they only follow other Olympian Gods. The only exceptions to that rule are international mega-mega Yoda celebrities like Dalai Lama and OBama [because they are cool], and literary giants like Paulo Coelho [because they are, ahem, intellectual]. The only other type they follow and converse with are the Grand Poobah Journalists (those who say things like “Is there space for space in today’s India?” and conduct analysis of the type “Germany defeated England because they are more multi-cultural ) and movie-reviewers (“This flick is for the masses and the classes). Why? Perhaps because even Gods need to keep their messengers in good humor.
Just below them, are the Angels Descended from Heaven. These are the lesser celebrities, who despite their extremely busy schedules (a fact that frequently tell us ), do want to keep in touch with their fans. Their tweets run the gamut from self-promotion (I will be on so-and-so show at 8 pm on Colors), to pithy intellectualisms (“Be the change” and “Politicians are our problem”) and cause-espousal (the fashionable ones only—like LGBT, PETA etc). They have conversations (as opposed to oracular pronouncements of the Olympian Gods) with those-with-some-influence either in the twitter world or in the newspaper one. They, however, only follow Olympian Gods, Grand Poobah-Journalists and even Little Poobah-Journalists and also other Angels.
Below them is the Noah’ s Ark of life, the unwashed masses—– celebrity junkies (those who keep on sending messages to Olympian Gods like devotees sending prayers), social media gurus (I have not the foggiest idea of what they do), echo chambers of friends/media people who have met through tweetups and who seem eager for more, politically conscious twits (those who send tweets to Grand Poobah Journalists applauding their pearly words of wisdom), Internet Hindus (they are the ones who use Sonia Gandhi’s maiden name and Arundhati Roy’s middle name when they refer to them), Internet Liberals (we know the type) and trolls (who favor direct abuse as a means of getting attention, taking advantage of the fact that blocking someone is a toothless gesture in Twitter ) and assorted other lifeforms.
Now my confusion was simply— whom to follow among all these. I am of course dreadfully interested in Priyanka Chopra’s broken toe-nail but for that I do not need to follow the Olympians—I merely read the newspapers, who have developed the fine art of twernalism (a neologism I claim to have coined) which entails taking a celebrity’s tweets and making it into a news report. That leaves me the truly mindboggling segment—-the ones at the bottom of the pyramid.
But after a year on Twitter, now I believe I have resolved the confusion. I am now going to follow. And the people who I am going to follow will be 1) those who make the medium of Twitter a form of expression, producing compelling content in one hundred forty characters (people like @rameshsrivats) 2) those who post intelligent links that I generally find interesting. The number will be small and it will have nothing to do with personal friendships (people who want to be friends are requested to add me on Facebook).
Thank you for letting me make this clarification (hopefully now I wont have to do any further explanations).
And now let us enjoy the offside goals.