Angry Birds: The Addictive Nastiness of Twitter

These days, I find Twitter is becoming an ongoing competition of insults. Like a global ‘Yo Mama’ contest. Or a twisted version of ‘The Hunger Games’ where anyone famous is targeted. In less than the time it takes a director to set up a single shot of a film, the armchair critic has ripped it apart with authority. And exaggerated its boredom as if the rest of his/her life is a never-ending orgasmic celebration.

The winners of this game – those who come up with the nastiest, funniest and most exaggerated put-downs – get rewarded in RTs or retweets. It is an addictive game — to have thousands of followers for someone who was not known beyond his college canteen is a thrill.

I should know: in the days before Twitter, I did this for a living. As a teenager, I used to be a caricaturist and cartoonist for a Bollywood film magazine. Not just thousands of readers, big stars too enjoyed my jokes on their rivals. It felt like a free ticket to get attention and approval without contributing anything really in life.

But there is a price to be paid. I can tell you from experience that a mind which is unforgiving to others’ faults cannot love its own. Attacking others verbally has repercussions even if your ‘victims’ never know who you are. Because what you give out to the Universe, comes back to you in some form. Yes, this applies even on Twitter.

There is a difference between attacking others and pointing out the truth. It’s amazing when people share what they see without fear or favor – when they make razor-sharp, insightful, witty observations. But maybe we don’t need to counter-balance the clichéd star quotes and manufactured PR praise with an overdose of bitterness. Just because they don’t feel right, we don’t need to become wrong. And when you are nasty you say a lot more about what you hate in yourself than about anybody else. Plus, it makes you feel rotten.

A few days ago, this subject of exaggerated nastiness on Twitter came up during a conversation with actor Shah Rukh Khan. His observation was that it comes from a deep-seated desire inside some people to be an opinion-maker, because mass media only allows a few famous people to be influencers. I found it quite insightful. And it made sense that in a shouting crowd of opinions, only the loudest, nastiest or most shocking would be noticed.

But I feel we can be funny and smart and truthful without needing to viciously destroy someone else. With a little effort, we can earn our tiny moment of personal glory while honoring others who have earned it too. I try to remember this when I am tempted to attack someone with a brilliantly witty put-down. And when in doubt, I remember the old adage: Tweet others as you would like to be tweeted.