13-19 May 2016 #808

Tweet that

Politically-charged predators on the prowl to pounce on the next prey with 140 characters
Bidushi Dhungel
Carlos Latuff

Twitter is an odd phenomenon. It is a sinking ship and Silicon Valley predicts its imminent downfall. Around the world Twitter’s use has already peaked and is slowing down, and in the Nepali perspective it will be gone before most Nepalis even know what it is.

What a shame. People here are only just finally getting the Twitter groove on. Unlike Facebook, this is not the platform for posts about birthdays and anniversaries or the mediocre accomplishments of one’s kids (‘My 6-year-old can use the loo’) but a repository of comments on current affairs. One might say that for Nepal, social media has been filtered to create an online space for political activism via Twitter.

The street may remain eerily quiet, but Twitter is the new hotbed for political activism. It has brought to surface the most scathing criticism: of the state, of the left, of the right, of opinion pieces, of people and personalities. No stone is left unturned. Who knew people who didn’t write columns even had opinions? Well, now we know.

Unfortunately, however, the real-world polarisation of public opinion manifests itself on Twitter in an even more wretched manner. We all know this, and yet we continue to egg on our preferred sides and actors with a 90:10 ratio of negative to positive energy.

Since people no longer even bother to have real conversations with people they disagree with, Twitter happily accommodates these fierce debates in a warped way.

Fundamentally, when we have a heated debate face-to-face with someone we generally are guided by a code of conduct that is based on the overall demeanor of the person/group that one is debating — the gestures, tones, facial and body expressions.

On Twitter, you take away all of that and throw in intolerance in 140-characters. Being accountable to one’s opinions, choice of words, or tone is almost impossible. In real conversations you are forced to at least listen to the other side’s arguments, and choose your reaction strategically. It’s a jungle out there on Twitter, and politically-charged predators are on the prowl for the next prey to pounce on.

No wonder that even with a plethora of ‘discussion’ on Twitter, nothing ever really changes in real life. And yet, even the ‘best and brightest minds’ spend so much time and energy tweeting, mostly just calling other people out but with little to no positive result – only screen-shot tweet rebuttals. With everyone so interested, no wonder that Big Brother is watching the Tweetosphere so astutely. In the case of our Oli-garchic state, Big Brother has ventured beyond cyberspace and into real lives. And at that point, again, one’s opinions simply do not matter and the issue of democracy and free speech must indeed be brought up. Robert Penner’s arrest and deportation is a result of the shrinking democratic space in Nepal, there shouhttp://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/GUEST-COLUMN/its-about-us-ansari-dixit-penner,713ld be no doubt about it. Penner was targeted under the guise of immigration control. Needless to say, the right to voice opinions, counter-opinions and scathing rebuttals (better known as ‘trolling’) on Twitter, however fruitless it may be, is no crime at all.

Sure, trolls are annoying. But, more importantly, they become ‘trolls’ only when they disagree with you. In reality, most active Twitter users, who do more than just tweet the news, are ‘trolling’ one school of thought or the other and victims emerge left right and centre. One would think the Nepali and foreign intelligentsia at least would be above all this, but sadly, Twitter brings out the worst in us all. Maybe it’s best if Twitter folds up soon.

Read more:

It's about us, Puru Shah

Hashtag revolutions, Tsering Dolker Gurung

Political geography of Nepal's Twittersphere, Bibek Paudel

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