HOW FACEBOOK GOT FUNNY?
One man’s contribution to the General Elections 2014 is unquestionable: Mark Zuckerberg
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.]