The outrage over Karan Johar’s Twitter Like!

Karan Johar was in a mighty big soup recently when he ‘Liked’ a tweet that was abusive to Shah Rukh Khan and praising Kesari, co-produced by Karan’s production house.

It went so viral within a few hours that the hashtag #ShameOnKaranJohar started trending nationally!

He tried explaining it, but it hardly sounded half convincing.

Then, in his true style, he used a new song from one of his upcoming productions to explain it!

Looking at all the completely unwanted attention, even Shah Rukh Khan tried explaining it!

This is a severe overreaction and par for the course on social media, but there’s something much deeper that most people completely miss.

What is a Twitter ‘Like’? Here’s how Twitter explains it.

Here’s one of Twitter product manager explaining that they came up with the new ‘bookmark’ feature after seeing almost every user use ‘Like’ feature to bookmark tweets for easier access later!

Here’s the problem. You could ‘Like’ a tweet for ANY reason that you think is appropriate for YOU.

Karan Johar could Like that tweet to remember to bring it up to Shah Rukh Khan the next time they meet and make a point about it. Or, he could have Liked it to check the so-called collections mentioned in the tweet. If you think about the many ways people use Twitter’s Like function, assuming that Karan Liked it to spite Shah Rukh is only one way to think about it, and perhaps the most negative and worst possible way to do that too, incidentally.

Facebook launched a series of buttons more than a simple Like back in 2016. I wrote a few imaginary conversations to explain how they could be perceived, back then.

The trouble here is that all these attempts at buttonizing complex human emotions to one or a few ends up making it even more bizarre in real life.

I had also written long ago about a question on Liking a Facebook post when someone announces that they are sad over someone’s demise.

Should one ‘Like’ that post (before the 6 different buttons were made available by Facebook)? The answer is, why not? How do you know what the actual feeling of the person who Liked it? That person could simply say, ‘I Liked it as a way to show my solidarity to the person. My way of saying I saw your update and feel for you’. Just because Facebook calls it a ‘Like’, should you assume it has to be used only in that manner? Says who?

The bigger problem in all this is that these actions (Like, Love etc.) are all publicly seen. Karan Johar’s Like was seen publicly and that turned the online mob into action. This is also the reason why Twitter launched a separate bookmark function where what you bookmark remains private!

The logic is similar to what you bookmark on your browser – it remains private, to you. If you are conscious that they could be seen by anybody, you’d exercise a filter on what you bookmark. Twitter Likes so easy and effortless that one doesn’t even think about privacy before hitting Like for any reason. Or, you may have a particular intent while Liking a tweet, but what that intent is best explained by you and not assumed by people seeing that Like.

The mere act of doing something digitally doesn’t also demonstrate the intent too. We arrived at this weird scenario because social media companies decided to make simple binaries out of our complex emotions. This gets far worse when you consider the fact that machines would make decisions about us, with no context, based on such binaries and oversimplified buttons!

When even a full sentence can be misunderstood or misconstrued, imagine how badly a simple click of a button can be understood as!



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