Why Celebrities are Quitting the Unsocial Media
Chennai: Toxicity of social media has claimed its latest celebrity victim, the vocal actor-turned-politician Khushbu Sundar who called it quits from Twitter on Tuesday. In August, Bollywood director Anurag Kashyap quit the microblogging site after his family was threatened over his political views. Actor Divya Spandana, who was also the Congress social media head and was known for her fiery comments, quit the site too. They are among the growing list of public figures who despite being fighters are forced to take a break from social media or delete their accounts, being unable to cope in the vitriolic atmosphere that almost always manifests for those with political opinions.
“I did not quit Twitter because of trolls, I quit because I was turning into someone I could not recognise. I often found myself embroiled in disproportionate negativism on various platforms,” says Khushbu.
The former Kollywood diva who has had a temple built in her name is not new to the highs and lows that come with being in the limelight. She has been revered by the people of Tamil Nadu who named idlis after her and also battled court cases for her comments on pre-marital sex. None shook the veteran actress, but the proportion of distasteful content has taken a toll. Sanity is important, says Khushbu who has handled trolls deftly over the years. “This is not a sabbatical. I am not going to come back to Twitter. Though my well-wishers will miss me for we had memorable times, I must say this platform has viciousness written all over. There is no regulation and hence these anonymous people get away with whatever they say.” The actor plans to be active on the photo-sharing social media site Instagram. “I am not popular because of Twitter. Whatever I want to convey, be it political or personal, I shall do it on Instagram, which is yet to be engulfed with toxic content.”
Actor-director R Parthiepan agrees that these mediums can be damaging and feels the best way to tackle the issue is by not reading the comments. “Trolls suffer from a disease that manifests as frustration and bitterness. They suffer from a perversion,” says Parthiepan who was trolled for an innocuous tweet on the borewell death of Trichy toddler Sujith Wilson. When asked if ignoring is a solution, the actor says he’s not sure if trolls understand nuance. “The value of silence is precious, which not many understand,” says Parthiepan.
Actor Prakash Raj, who is finding his footing in the political arena, feels social media attacks are a flip side of popularity, for which public figure should be prepared and that the key is not getting bogged down by anonymous threats. “Fighting it out and staying put on such platforms will speak a lot about people’s strength and how well they can handle unpleasant situations. When I question the BJP government I am told to go to Pakistan without having a clue of what they are talking about,” he says. “I am answerable to my conscience. I don’t care what the trolls think or say.”
But when the anger reaches one’s doorstep or when family members are threatened, it is difficult to keep cool, feel celebrities. Actor Kasturi feels the onslaught on Twitter is akin to walking against the tide of people on a crowded street. At the receiving end for her comments on yesteryear actor Latha a few months ago, the actor managed to quell the unwelcoming comments.
“Social media regulation is lacking, as trolls get away with whatever they can. This has to be rectified at the earliest,” says Kasturi.
Since new-age political leaders are also taking to the platform for reaction and discussions, it’s time a sane social media space was ensured.
“It seems some people have made a career of trolling the celebrities. Anonymous, fake IDs and paid trolls are the order of the day, unless government comes up with strict rules, nothing will change,” she says.
Social media entrepreneur and professor Kiruba Shankar says social media encourages groupism and negativism and is less tolerant towards ideological differences. Knee-jerk reactions from people sitting on judgment is disturbing behaviour. Being anonymous, Kiruba Shankar adds, allows people to make nasty comments and get away. “Women celebrities are soft targets because when they make a negative reply they receive backlash not only for their comment but also face misogynistic comments,” says the faculty of Great Lakes Institute of Management and LIBA. “The way to tackle such scenarios is either quit or take them in one’s stride.”