The chances are we took the virtual a bit too seriously this year, and chances are that we will take it even more seriously the coming year. While social media might still be just scratching the surface in India when it comes to actual penetration, there is no denying the fact that in 2015 it wasn’t a protest if it was not on social media, it wasn’t an outrage if tweets hadn’t been fired with pointed hashtags, and it wasn’t a campaign if Change.org mailers hadn’t been shared.
But 2015 was also a year in which a lot of issues were born as posts and got a quiet burial under the billions of posts that came afterwards. Here is a list of the best, or worst, issues that raked retweets on the social media this year, but never had serious impact offline.
Search criminal, find Modi
One of the big outrages on social media was about Narendra Modi, and some other prominent persons, showing up in a Google search for the most-wanted criminals. The issues snowballed, fuelled by the ignorance of search algorithms and inability to accept the fact that Google does not own any of this content. The search giant apologised for its technology not being able to sieve out those websites that were tagging Modi and others with wrong keywords.
A video on how women want to make their own choices, voiced by Deepika Padukone, had India split down the middle. There were tweets and counter tweets, TV talk-shows noised by those in favour and against. In the end, it was just a video by Vogue, empowering just its brand.
Buzz from Buzzfeed
Indian men just couldn’t stomach the fact that Buzzfeed’s Rega Jha found Pakistani men hotter. It was worse that the observation came during a tough India-Pakistan rubber at the Cricket World Cup. Jha brought out the best in Indian men, especially those who like to hide behind the security of 140 characters. This could have been one buzz she didn’t want to feed.
The clean image
Someone in the Press Information Bureau really likes Adobe Photoshop and its ability to give a better image. So instead of two images — one showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi looking out of a helicopter window and the other showing the flooded Chennai locales he was looking at — the PIB released one image with the second image cut into the window in the first one. Let’s just say there have been better photoshop efforts in wedding albums. The government press outfit had to withdraw the image after outrage on social media.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was courageous enough to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “psychopath and a coward”, of course on Twitter, soon after his office was raided in December. Now, imagine how this conversation would have been if it happened between a CM and a PM in real life. Nothing of the sort happened, thankfully.
Facebook has been trying its luck pushing Free Basics to the Indian market. But with the going getting tough following the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) order asking partner Reliance Communications to suspend the service till it figures out if net neutrality is being breached by the service, the social network decided to use its technology to get some unsuspecting Indians, and some even in the US, to send messages to the telecom regulator pushing for what it calls ‘digital equality’. A lot of Indians thought it was part of some global campaign, the sort that changes your display picture to support a cause, and ended up hitting the send button before reading the fine print. People are still outraging about this outrage on Facebook.