Social Media Influenza: Has online roasting gone wrong?

Through the passage of time, internet and computer technology has evolved. A world that was once content with just MSN messenger and Hi5, now has a buffet of social media platforms to choose from. While many of us rejoice thinking ‘ah…times, they are a changing,’ some may even argue, that this change probably isn’t meant for everybody. It’s commendable that apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, Dubsmash and countless others are giving people platforms to express themselves. However, it’s come to a point where people have gone the extra mile to appear #baus #lit with antics that are a negative on the humour meter.

Humour has a very big following over the internet; whether it’s introvert humour or existential crisis memes, it’s bound to get likes, shares and hits because at the end of the day it’s relatable. But upon looking into a few pages and people, it seems that humour has suddenly become all about ‘roasting’ or ‘getting confrontational’ than having a good laugh.
The culture of roasting is prevalent in stand-up comedy. If you’ve seen Louis C.K, Russell Peters, George Carlin, Chad Thornberry, Aditi Mittal or the All India Bakchod (AIB) skits, you’ll be able to identify what it means. It’s either on the accounts of the self or the things that influence it; so comedy is a creative construction of stories with a build-up and punchlines. The result may be a hit or a miss because stand-up comedy isn’t a battle to prove your wits to the world. But we can’t say the same about pranksters.
The trend among these individuals go from humorous to downright dysfunctional. What pranksters fail to understand is that their one-hit-wonder videos may get them the notoriety instantly; however, it’s not a meal ticket to big fame or money. These self-proclaimed celebs may get their few seconds of fame; days tops. But I don’t think they’d surpass the couple of thousand likes that Hero Alom gets for his random videos or the million hits Ananta Jalil gets for his oddities on the big screen.
A year ago, two deshi models appeared on ‘Interview with Choto Azad,’ where it was celebrated how brave these women were during their Bangkok trip for trolling a man in the men’s washroom and taking a snap of him urinating. Eventually, the talk show host and the models got critiqued for glorifying the issue. The hypocrisy in humour or common sense here is that, had the tables been turned on these two women, it could’ve easily been a clamour for sexual harassment.
In the US, two young individuals from the LGBTQ community, who go by their social media identity ‘Gen Zer’ uploaded a video of themselves doing what they label as ‘crazy’. It showed one of them walking into a store, eating ice-cream from a container and putting it back into the fridge. The other friend was shown gargling mouthwash and spitting it back into the bottle. Upon being called to the Dr Phil show, the two claimed that their videos are a means of getting attention with the hopes of achieving quick fame. Do their acts model positive behaviour? NO. But putting their faces out there and being addressed as a ‘somebody’ is what they find fulfilling.
Before going on air, the Gen Zer friends mentioned that the items they vandalised for their video was already paid for, and they emphasized fully on how this was a deliberate publicity stunt. What is baffling is being a part of a minority group and going all out with reckless behaviour, only just makes them more susceptible to sexuality based discrimination.
Another prankster came to the Dr Phil show claiming that her videos need to be ‘dumb’ enough in order for her to share them with her followers. She’s also under the impression that having critics on social media and presenting a character that is ‘out there’ and dismissive towards ‘haters’ is what makes you famous enough to get your own MTV show!
It’s key to ask, why should anyone from any community look up to acts of stupidity or vandalism in the first place? How does it contribute positively to the self or inject into the society? This whole ‘not being accountable’ façade among social media influencers such as pranksters is irksome. Had the roles been reversed where the pranksters became the prey, I doubt they’d take it as sportfully as they expect of their victims.
On the flipside, it is very easy to mock and jeer their unorthodox behaviour, but at the end of the day it’s us…the audience with their like, love and hate is what puts people like pranksters on the map. We do like to scrutinize them and rip them to shreds, but it’s our consumption of their lunacy is what puts them under the spotlight.
One can argue that there should be a ban on this whole ‘prankster’ culture, but then again it’s not everyone in this line of entertainment who’s wreaking havoc. Simply put, you just can’t cut down an entire orchard for a few rotten apples. The fact remains that what’s popular today will eventually lose its charm over the next couple of days; everyone’s replaceable.
Having egos lifted over social media gives a sense of validation, but only for a short while, it’s not enough to give you skills or enhance existing abilities. Just because something is going viral doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ‘right’ ‘fun’ or ‘relevant.’ It serves a particular niche, and eventually it’ll be run over by another niche; and the trend will carry on in a cyclical order we will continue to be spectator to this.