Pain, Humiliation & the New Media

07 Apr,2020


By Ranjona Banerji


O the pain and the humiliation. I want to blame the virus but after 20 days of social isolation I have to blame social media and us, but mainly you, other humans. O the pain and the humiliation. Especially as a journalist, a writer. Only pain and humiliation.

This is how it breaks down:

On Twitter:

You tweet a link to an article you have written. First responders will not go further than the headline. Now 99.9 per cent of the time, the headline and accompanying strap have nothing to do with me. But the headline will deeply affect twits. And they comment on the article based on the headline alone. Some will then explain to, to ME, what the article is about. Some will then give me links to other articles with similar headlines. None of these will actually read what the article says, ie what I have tried to say.

I think somewhere within is the great revenge of the Sub-Editor. I have to confess a small part of me is quite happy. For the first three months of my first job in journalism, I wrote mainly headlines and captions. At least 30-odd years later, I know someone reads them!

However. My great thanks to those who do actually read. All 11 of you.

On Facebook:

Facebook is actually infinitely worse. Twitter is a bunch of strangers, mainly, and I have made some very good friends there. But Facebook is largely people one has met, “friends of friends” and other post-Zuckerberg social characterisations.

These “friends” are unable or unwilling to read. That is, they will read the first two lines of what you have written and never make it all the way to the end. It does not matter if you have written three lines or 300. Two is the limit.

And then the comments flow free and fast. People falling over themselves, to be trigger happy, to be kind and loving, to be wise and worldly, to be helpful. O lord, that’s the limit. The helpfulness. I just can’t abide it. Like when I post an article that I have written, why the &*%# do you think I want to read similar articles from another 100 journalists, a good number of which are untalented upstarts and most of whom I do not consider journalists at all? Have you never considered the gigantic size of my own ego?

See, pain and humiliation.

Then there are those who start complaining about the accompanying photograph or the point size or some website deficiencies. I mean, what can I do about any of those? I don’t own or run any newspapers or websites. And the best are the three people who start some side conversation which turns into a rip-roaring battle.

I really love the two people who just quietly hit the “like” button without bothering to read anything or comment or offer any advice. True friends. I love you.

And finally, Whatsapp:

It exists as a trial. To test our lack of comprehensive powers. To increase our blind belief. To systematically target any part of the brain which has anything to do with reason.

Because I am new to this Whatsapp game or rather I never paid attention to it before, and mainly because of time on my hands, I waste a good number of hours pointing out fake news to people. No, you cannot see the Arctic Circle from Gurgaon because pollution has reduced and so on. But I don’t know why I bother. Hardly have I hit send, then I have been bombarded again with the same videos, the same fake news, the same gobbledygook which Whatsapp people think must be true. I use the word “think” advisedly…

Anyway, now that 12 million people have sent me some article by Arundhati Roy on every possible form of web-driven communication, I suppose I shall have to read it…

Maybe, amidst the pain and humiliation, there is some scope for revenge here.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal.



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