HOW FACE­BOOK GOT FUNNY?

One man’s con­tri­bu­tion to the Gen­eral Elec­tions 2014 is un­ques­tion­able: Mark Zucker­berg

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - HUMOUR SPECIAL - by Karthik Lax­man

By the time you read this, the an­swer to the ques­tion, “Is there a Modi wave in the coun­try?” would have been set­tled, and Ra­jdeep Sarde­sai would hope­fully have at­tained a sense of clo­sure af­ter the 1,234,334 prime-time de­bates he has mod­er­ated on this very topic over the past one year.

The dis­cus­sion would now have moved to the ques­tion, ‘Who’s re­spon­si­ble for this re­sult?’ One can al­most pic­ture Ra­jdeep hol­ler­ing, “Is it Dr Man­mo­han Singh for his govern­ment’s poor per­for­mance? Or is it Rahul Gandhi for not tak­ing charge of this party? Or is it just Modi? That’s the big ques­tion tonight!”

While the rel­a­tive im­pact of Messrs Singh, Gandhi and Modi may be de­bat­able, one man’s con­tri­bu­tion to the re­sult in Gen­eral Elec­tions 2014 and, in­deed, to In­dian democ­racy is un­ques­tion­able. That man is Mark Zucker­berg.

Pic­ture a col­lege dropout in a non­de­script town in Ra­jasthan hunched over a CRT mon­i­tor in a cy­ber-cen­ter. He logs on to Face­book to see what his friends are upto, and finds some­thing sit­ting in his news feed. It’s a comic fea­tur­ing a prom­i­nent politi­cian.

The young man bursts out laugh­ing, and does some­thing that is in­stinc­tive, au­to­matic, al­most sec­ond na­ture to this gen­er­a­tion. He hits ‘Like’. A few min­utes later, the pic has made its way through the so­cial net­work, and over a 1000 oth­ers have had a chuckle at the politi­cian’s ex­pense.

Thanks to so­cial me­dia, pol­i­tics is no longer about a bor­ing bunch of crooked old men hav­ing a go at each other in a mad rush for power. Pol­i­tics is now en­gag­ing, fun, some­times rip-roar­ingly funny. Hu­mour is a great way to get ini­ti­ated into pol­i­tics and un­der­stand its nu­ances. And Face­book, with its ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ but­tons and em­pha­sis on vis­ual me­dia, scores over text-driven Twit­ter in reach and vi­ral­ity.

The hu­mour ex­plo­sion on Face­book could be traced back to the ad­vent of the ‘Face­book page’ in 2007. Am­a­teur hu­mourists, who were hitherto get­ting their kicks out of draw­ing a chuckle from those in their im­me­di­ate cir­cle, sud­denly dis­cov­ered that they could ac­tu­ally build a fol­low­ing on­line and make it a busi­ness. Pow­ered by Face­book (and Twit­ter to a lesser ex­tent), satire and hu­mour por­tals such as The Un­real Times and Fak­ing

News, car­toon­ists such as Satish Acharya, Manoj Kureel and Man­jul be­gan to churn out gags, memes and spoofs on a daily ba­sis, en­ter­tain­ing and ed­u­cat­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands, while build­ing their own brands in the process.

The on­line hu­mour revo­lu­tion re­ceived a fur­ther boost in 2013, when Face­book in­tro­duced the ‘Share’ but­ton which made vi­ral posts even more vi­ral. Pages such as Garbage Bin added fans by the thou­sands ev­ery day through their enor­mously pop­u­lar gags.

By mid-2013, elec­tion fever had well and truly set­tled in, pro­vid­ing a rich op­por­tu­nity for hu­mour of ev­ery kind to flour­ish – from the sub­tle dig to the slap­stick crack.

Our ne­tas too con­trib­uted to the fun in their own inim­itable man­ner, with gems such as these:

So, if you think you are funny and think of yourself as an am­a­teur en­ter­tainer, go ahead and cre­ate a Face­book page. But make sure you don’t re­sort to du­bi­ous tech­niques to garner Face­book fans or you’ll end up with a bunch of Turk­ish fans like our dear for­mer Ra­jasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot once did. [Edi­tor’s note: For those of you who skipped this hi­lar­i­ous news item last year: the BJP had, in July 2013, ac­cused Gehlot of “buy­ing likes” in bulk from IT firms in Is­tan­bul for his of­fi­cial Face­book page.]

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