Tamil Nadu has faced the worst rainfall in 140 years from 2016-present. O. Panneerselvam, the Chief Minister of the state announced on January 10, 2017 that TN will soon be declared drought-hit.
Farmers wanted that a total of their 40,000 crores loans to be waived off, but the Central government sanctioned just 2,014 crore rupees. Hence, the protests.
P. Ayyakkanu, the head of protesting farmers organised these “theatrical” protests at Jantar Mantar – be it farmers eating rice and dal straight from road, men wearing saree and bindi, eating rats or shaving half of their head and mustache.
We see two millennial reactions to this issue – one, that people are not comfortable with the theatricality of these protests; two, uninstalling SnapDeal instead of Snapchat.
Millennials have brought a revolution on the internet. Snapchat’s ratings have dropped from 5 stars to 1 star on PlayStore.
It is sad to see that the same social media that garnered such drastic responses against India being called “poor” has a deafening silence towards the farmer protests in Jantar Mantar. This silence has failed the protests.
Now, allow me to explain this:
Fifteen Minutes Of Fame
“In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”
– Andy Warhol
There is nothing wrong with Warhol’s prediction of the face of the future.
Let me put it this way:
Social media is very dynamic. Trending topics change every minute. So, some things go viral for a very short period of time. And once those “fifteen minutes of fame” end, the same kinds of things don’t enjoy the same fame because the news no longer holds the same value to millennials.
Tamil Nadu farmers protesting with the skulls of their colleagues did enjoy its fifteen minutes of fame, like any other social issue on the internet. But over time, this “theatricality” of the protests could not enjoy an visibility since their first move – protesting with the skulls of their dead colleagues.
After fifteen minutes, the protests did not trend. So, the concern died too.
Social Media versus News
For millennials, internet is news. By the time something appears on the news, it has been already discussed and forgotten on social media. News hype fails when compared to the viral phenomenon on social media.
Millennials complain about paid media, but your news feed is no different.
You censor your own news. We look up pages where we find only the kind of news we want to read.
Now, the TN protests have not been able to reach or appeal to the millennials is because we are so used to privilege and resources that news is only what affects us. In this case, Snapchat. The farmers an take care of themselves. They don’t belong to us.
Anyone who has a following in tens of thousands is a social media celebrity today.
These celebrities have to keep their audience engaged with themselves. For this, one has to put up constant updates which can potentially grow more followers.
You earn more followers when you comment on celebrity gossip and new releases than farmer protests, for sure.
I will not only blame this ignorance to attract more followers, but also the fact that millennials are under this constant pressure to appear “cool”. Memes help you gain validation, boss. Depressing, complex news does not.
Clearly, Nigam’s view on azaan become more important than farmers threatening that they will not leave the Jantar Mantar complex until they meet the Prime Minister to discuss their problems.
At the same time, one is definitely forced to think – what made jallikattu a sensation but not these farmers? Was it because the issue directly attacked the Tamil culture or because PeTA made it famous with its online campaign?
What I have realised, anyway, is if you can’t relate an issue to cultural sentiments of people, it will never get coverage, at least not with millennials. The social media addiction of millennials will allow this protest to fade forever. And that is the saddest part.
Image Credits: Google Images