With the growing presence of social media in everyone’s life — even celebrities — the breaking of a news story is always followed by reaction on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. However, when celebrities take to social media to air their sentiments, it can put them in trouble too.
This week, when the Supreme Court banned the sale of firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR region, celebrities were quick to take sides. While Chetan Bhagat was trolled for opposing the move, cricketer Yuvraj Singh supported it. And no sooner than he tweeted, trolls put up an image of the cricketer’s wedding where there were firecrackers on display. Anushka Sharma was trolled about going vegan, as her followers soon fished out a tweet raving about biryani.
What’s intriguing about Twitter comments is that while the celebrity could be tweeting with good intentions, the Internet never forgets their every move. Quite like Yuvraj, or Sonam Kapoor, who too was trolled with pictures of her bursting firecrackers last year, the hypocrisy lies bare for all to see.
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who is vocal on social media himself, says, “Twitter is a platform to air your opinions and ideas. However, it depends on the celebrity on how to use this platform. If he/ she wants to avoid trolls, the person should be careful with the tweet and not be a hypocrite. In some cases, trolling on social media has proven to be good because they are exposing people, who are hypocrites and making us aware of the truth.”
VJ Jose Covaco has a more pragmatic take on the issue, and hopes people will give the benefit of doubt to celebrities. “People change, and so do their opinions,” he shrugs. “It is possible that these celebrities, who once enjoyed firecrackers display, may find it a bad idea today. So, I don’t know if celebrities are being hypocrites or their opinions have honestly changed. Maybe celebs should be clearer when they voice their views.”
But could it be possible that these are merely attention seeking stunts? Life coach and image consultant Chayya Momaya seems to think it’s possible. “Social media helps celebrities to find space to voice their opinions and grab attention. Today, people are not worried if they are being trolled or getting bad publicity,” she explains. “If they tweet about something, it gets trolled and if it becomes a controversy, they are fine with it. In fact, some celebrities purposely tweet something controversial to grab attention, while some buy trolls to create a controversy to eventually get recognition and publicity. So first they create trolls, indulge in a controversy and then they become big.”
Whatever may be the case, such instances of trolling can often take a toll on the celebrity’s image. And the people left behind to do the cleaning up are the publicists, who often get into damage control mode.
A publicist, on the condition of anonymity, reveals what happens behind the scenes. “Issuing a statement to explain that the intention of the opinion was not to hurt sentiments always helps. We also strongly advice our clients to not retaliate, or indulge in what they call a ‘Twitter battle’. That further dilutes their brand. In some cases, we also advice them to ignore the trolling, as their silence also means that it is their opinion and nobody can contest that.” Explaining how easy it is to misunderstand even a misplaced emoticon on social media, the publicist adds, “There is a vast difference in speaking out loud and speaking via social media. Words, punctuations and emoticons are often misconstrued, as the tone of the dialogue is not apparent on digital platforms. However, we do feel it’s unfair for trolls to curb one’s thoughts only because they are afraid.”