Odiyan is a Malayalam language movie released a couple of days back, directed by Shrikumar Menon, with a star cast that includes Mohan Lal in title role alongside Prakash Raj and Manju Warrier. Destined to be a South Indian superhit, trolls started raining in, even before the very first show reached halfway. True to the adage, all cows followed the cow in the front. Immediately I too joined the bandwagon, “Too bad a movie, must avoid, what a money waste”, I commented in all the Facebook groups I could; then I noticed more colourful comments.
“Truth cannot be hidden the movie is of below average quality…..Though the theme was fine … Performance of artists are notable but the direction mode is simply of low grade…..Try small movies and then think of biggies like randamoozham…..Don’t waste the time and money….Including of ours…..”
“Boss get a job. The movie is pathetic, and I regret spending money on your bluff! Your attempt ruins Malayalam film standards. Now, becomes the lowest rated film on Bookmyshow in recent times!”
“See there are obvious flops in your direction! But it’s understandable because you are a debutant. So please don’t venture out to make Randamoozham because a film of its scale needs an experienced director! You are clearly not experienced enough!”
Soon I realised, the cyber attacks are targeted on just the director, Sri Kumar Menon. From generalised “bad movie” comments, I changed my strategy to degrade Shri Kumar Menon. Menon has been a stick in the Malayalee eyes for quite a while for wrecking the family of Malayalam superstar Dileep (The stories of his affair with Manju Warrier are unfounded created by cyber maniacs). My comments took a more venomous turn.
“You should stop directing movies and settle with Manju Warrier to save Malayalees from another ‘Odiyan’ “.
But the truth remained. I never watched the movie ‘ Odiyan’. I never met or had any contact with Shri Kumar Menon, Manju Warrier , Dileep or Mohanlal. In fact, I liked all these celebrities for their movies and their achievements in life until I put my first ‘negative’ comment. Then why did I do it? Where were all these venom hiding in me until now? Was I just displaying pack behaviour?
Even if I watched the movie and disliked it, was there any use being the 200th person to write a degrading comment? I started analysing myself for a moment. My comments may influence atleast a few people and I have done it without watching the movie. I may instigate pack behaviour in others too. A movie is the hard work of so many people and many lives are hung in balance on its outcome. Why didn’t I feel any guilt in being a part in the destruction mania?
Me, being a human being is a complex creature. My failures in life, desperations, unhappiness about things happening around me, were ballooning somewhere inside me. Though I liked these successful people for what they are, I still carried a feeling of jealousy against them. When I got an opportunity to bring them down, I just used it. A sense of accomplishment engulfed me soon after, which made me forget my desperations at least for a second. A sense of empowerment. I could swing my sword against these powerful and successful people and have a say in their destiny. Now they are at my mercy.
My trolls were showing the noxious part of me, the sadistic me. I was enjoying harming someone. Me, the cyber bully was on display for the world to see. The question remains, “Why instead of noticing the “Bad Me”, people overwhelmingly joined my bandwagon and displayed their noxious part? “
I felt my status as an online identity enhanced when other trollers seconded my opinion. Every five minutes I logged back in to see how many people liked my comments. I enjoyed the attention I received for upsetting others and I felt so important.
This sense of empowerment is arising out of pack behaviour but is not a new phenomenon. Before the arrival of social media, rumour mills did the job just as perfect, but social media has made it easier.
Trolling is all about posting disruptive or inflammatory comments to provoke others. Not much studies have been conducted on how to control its disruptive nature. Movies or any other commercial product, is marketed before and after its introduction for saleability. A new type of marketing strategy needs to be employed, to prevent a product or service being an innocent victim of venomous campaigns. It is a gap yet to be filled properly by cyber entrepreneurs. Before a movie is released, cyber warriors should be made ready to infiltrate social medial groups to remove and counter disruptive comments. This could be a huge task for English or Hindi movies, which has worldwide audience, but regional language movies will find it an easily controllable domain. In the case of Odiyan, official Facebook pages of the movie, its director and actors were flooded with negative comments which were never removed, which is a serious flaw as far as marketing is concerned. Moderating comments and banning offenders, should be made a number one priority in any marketing campaign.
When a person is attacked instead of a product or service, how far the legal system is equipped to support the individual? An ordinary citizen, who achieved celebrity status solely due to their God given talents can’t be expected to deploy an army of cyber warriors to protect them from such attacks. Is the legal system equipped to protect them? The defamation laws are ineffective in most cases and the story of Deepa Nishanth, a college lecturer and an accomplished writer from Kerala, is an excellent example to prove it.
Deepa Nishanth was accused of plagiarism and she has apologised for the same. But trolls continued with a purpose of destroying her completely and was of perpetual nature. The sadistic mentality of trollers can have long lasting effects in the life of individuals. This shows that defamation laws are not enough to counter its effects and it is time for the Government and social media companies to step in and do their bit. Social awareness campaigns need to be developed to control the trolling behaviour of individuals and to portray it as a mental illness.
WRITTEN BY : SANDEEP KARAYI
NB: I APOLOGISE TO ALL THOSE I HAVE TROLLED IN THE PAST THREE MONTHS TO LEARN THE EFFFECTS OF TROLLING AS A PART OF THIS STUDY.