Of trollbooks and memegrams

we talk to page admins  to find out the origin and growth of memes and how trolls operate

Published: 14th February 2018 10:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2018 04:42 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: American writer and director Andy Warhol, in the 1980s, quoted that in the future, everyone is going to be famous for 15 minutes. Thanks to internet and social media, his predictions have come true. If not for the meme and troll pages, we wouldn’t have seen overnight sensations such as brow dance girl Priya Varrier, Malar miss Sai Pallavi, Jhimmiki Kammal Sheryl, Dhinchak Pooja and too many more to name. Well, all these fad folks, whose followers number on their Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube skyrocketed from thousands to millions in a day owe it to these troll and meme pages. 

While they have made an 18-year-old debutante actress from Kerala, the national crush of India or landed a chaiwala from a remote area of Pakistan an international modelling contract, they have also poked fun at our celebrities, politicians and sometimes common man to get the whole country laughing at their expense. Although the eminence is ephemeral as these pages find a new face and new craze every day, the 15-minute fame is enough to take them from rags to riches or otherwise.How are trolls and memes born? What is the whole funda of going viral? What is the difference between a troll and a meme? Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, the page owners of The Sarcatic Indian (TSI) and Comedy and Punch dialogues Telugu (CAPDT).

Sarat Ankit, owner of CAPDT, says he created the page with an intention to make funny memes out of movies and parody of movies to evoke some laughter on a common man’s face after a long day. “With social media being swamped with newer content every minute from umpteen parts of the world and with new pages emerging like branches of a tree, we have to be updated with everything the target audience is expecting from us.

Competition and sustenance are prime factors. Trolls help thrive the activity in pages, so picking up troll material is something that admins are always on the lookout for, like an eagle having its focus on its meat miles away,” Sarat adds. He also mentioned that unlike yesteryear, celebrities these days are making viral-worthy comments to be in the public attention. Although it could backfire sometimes. 

Initially trolls operated on hatred as their prime emotion. They used to troll actors and actresses who were competitors of their favorite actors, but over the years, it is the extremism of an individual that has become a major material. “People with extreme behaviours in videos, making immoderate statements, which often go out of context become a useful material for troll which is used in all current situations,” he informs. “Honestly we don’t make trolls, we get such material every now and then. It is never a controlled and chanellised piece of work,” he supplements his statement. 

Does it have a negative impact on the individual? Pat comes the reply from Sarat. “Sometimes, what goes viral stumps us. Zaleel Khan, MLA of Vijayawada West constituency’s ‘I studied physics in BCom,’ statement garnered lot of attention. It could have been a slip of the tongue, but the statement went viral in no time.”  

It is observed that every troll and meme page follows the same style sheet and also, every page has the same topic/ issue doing rounds at the same time period. Do they collectively pick a topic? Throwing light on the same, CAPDT page owner said, “Nobody coordinates with each other on the troll topic, but it’s an undercurrent and avalanche effect, where it starts from a page and then trickle to every other page. Since all of us follow all pages, picking up and owning it in no time is not an issue, thanks to our spontaneity.”

Says Abdul Waheed, TSI page owner, “There is no specific reason for people getting trolled on social media. Most of the time, the trolls are picked from anything peculiar or amusing said or done by someone. For instance, Om Prakash Mishra and Dhinchak Pooja (pop singers) for their weird songs and Trivago Guy for his accent etc. But sometimes the internet can be barbarous in picking up sensitive issues and making memes on them.”

Both the page owners echoed that the topics are not picked specifically or with an intention to malign someone’s reputation, if the topic has the tendency to go viral, they go effortlessly. “It is difficult to predict and impossible to plant vitality, it’s just a stroke of spontaneous masterpieces of extremity, one dialogue, one expression, one exaggeration which you thought nobody would ever even notice sometimes becomes the biggest sensation,” he smiles. Priya Prakash’s wink is a testament. 
“The other media handles Twitter, Instagram contribute a lot to trolls and memes,” Waheed shares.

Elucidating the difference between trolls and memes, Waheed informs that trollers can be creepy and outrageously abusive which has the potential to create negative ripples on that particular person and his/her life. “Commenting on their outfit and being abusive in the comments is not a cool thing to do. Memers don’t really get too personal. Memes are enjoyed by the people until a certain line is not crossed. Many celebs like actors Irrfan Khan and Zaira Wasim, Abhinav Kumar (Trivago Guy) have enjoyed being a meme,” he adds.

Don’t we love comeback posts by celebs, politicians or common man. Looks like the page owners too enjoy come back trolls. “Comebacks shuts up the abusive trollers. This publicly shames them. Comebacks are always appreciated by the social media. There are a lot of instances where a lot of articles have been written on the comebacks which people give to celebs or celebs to people and most of them are striking,” he shares. Offensive and dismaying comments are expected without any invitation. Waheed says being an admin of a popular page makes it difficult for him to go through every comment on the posts they do. But when he comes across one, he ensures the comments are deleted and also the person is banned from commenting on that page again. “I have a banned a lot of people who give creepy replies to girls in the comment section,” he shares. 

 “Ours is page rich in humour and we ensure we troll less on individuals compared to other pages and we also back out, if it offends anyone. We mostly post relevant, non-offensive content. Even when we post on people, it is assured to be healthy and enjoyable by people from all walks of life. For instance, we made memes on Om Prakash Mishra, cringe-pop singer as he is called, for his song ‘Bol na Aunty aao kya’, he enjoyed that and gained a lot of fame. So being a meme or the reason for being a troll has its pros and cons but yes if the particular individual is not comfortable about it, it should be stopped right there,” Waheed ascertains. 

 purnima@newindianexpress.com  @iyer_purnima

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