Some days ago, the German broadcaster Deutsch Welle (DW) ran a “taxi” contest, announced on its TV channel and Facebook page. All you had to do was to take a picture of a taxi in your city and send it to them by email. One lucky participant would win a mini iPad. The winner of the raffle was from India and her picture, of a three-wheeler autorickshaw, was uploaded on the DW Facebook page. Immediately, the non-winners (we can’t call them losers, for there could be losers only in matches and races) found technical problems with the winning entry. For them taxi=car. While the winner was thrilled with her luck, there were others who were clear that her interpretation of ‘taxi’ should have pushed her out of the reckoning, advising the organisers to quickly choose another winner. Of course some were sporting enough to congratulate her, while lamenting about their own poor luck.
Last month, ET Now, the business news channel turned six, and to celebrate this milestone, they ran a contest #BuiltOnSix that would give away six iPhone6 handsets over five days. The task was to complete a line about ET Now, and post it on Facebook or Twitter. This was a contest to test literary skills. Of course, the judges would need to like what you wrote, so a bit of luck would do no harm. Why not give it a shot! One post on Facebook and the same line on Twitter, suitably modified to fit in 140 characters.
The winners were announced on ET Now during the 9 p.m. show that day, but having not watched the show, the pleasant surprise came through Twitter tweets. Several references to my twitter handle were being tweeted, retweeted and favourited. I even got a few new followers.
I have not been a regular on Twitter, so my ET Now tweet was made after a couple of months of inactivity. The twitter traffic of the half day (actually night) that followed the announcement surpassed that which I had had in the past four years earlier, ever since I first created an account. There were a few tweets of congratulations. There were many tweets I could have done without, though some deserve credit for creative thinking. The regular tweeters felt deprived of the prize, and they made no bones about it. How could someone win with just one tweet, and that too, with no creativity! It was evident that the winners’ profiles were dug into. People whom you would not know from Adam seemed to know more about you than you knew yourself. Even ET Now was not spared and accused of favouring its own employees. Trolls on Facebook were no less really, but the setup makes them less impactful.
For those unaccustomed to adverse social media attention, the experience could be hurtful. Even if you have grown rhino skin, you won’t easily forget. And if you’ve not deleted the messages from your newsfeed, your tweets of fame and infame will be there to stay.
Emboldened by no face to face contact, trolls can be intimidating. Soon enough though, one would realise that wicked comments are best ignored. As the saying goes, “never feed the trolls”. You aren’t the only target. There are thousands for them to choose from so tomorrow it will be someone else and you will slip into oblivion.