Lankan Twitter – the Proverbial Rabbit Hole Wonderland of Sri Lanka
My Twitter account was created years ago and properly activated almost a decade later – this year – 2022. When I started, some white racist went on a rant which surprised me and then later a friend said – Twitter is a cess pit – people exist on it to trigger others. Interesting. Which is a good lesson in learning to ignore unnecessary bullshit.
I gained a few followers because of the people’s protests that we were a part of which eventually escalated to the mass uprising at Nelum Pokuna and Galle Face and other parts of Sri Lanka. And so I ventured onto Twitter and discovered quite a diverse array of characters on board.
There were a few known faces – people in the NGO, humanitarian, journalistic, political world and then there were the phantoms of the opera – accounts with God knows who behind them, with witty names, no face profile pics, profiles with some hyperbolic description about being either fully PC or anti woke, some animal, about some existential crisis and the like.
I soon discovered the favs – the journos, social media experts, constitutional experts, pro gov lackeys, gov members, anti gov trolls and the like. There are many sharing knowledge and explaining things which is great. But there were some people I had never heard of. They had a following, an opinion on anything and everything interspersed with random comments like the cat is not eating, the weather is foul etc. It was truly hilarious and random to someone like me who had just happened on them. Amazing was the self affirmative and self righteous attitude they posited because say – 50 to 100 people had liked their tweets.
Thing is, Twitter is the least exposed of social media in Sri Lanka. It is also primarily in English which means its reach is further limited. It’s like 350000 users vs. Facebook which has millions. It also reminded me of a certain small school, small city syndrome where each justified the others’ existence without a modicum of reality or realistic exposure.
Sure, we must all look at being PC, eradicate racism, stand against corruption, look at true attempts at reconciliation, hold government officials accountable and the list goes on. But tagging them on Twitter while you sit at home sipping coffee or at a saivara kadey eating a kotthu, ain’t gonna change Jack shit in this country.
Systemic change can only be accomplished by getting into that system and changing it. Arm chair critics, sideline hooters and righteous posturers cannot achieve anything but likes and follows. It is this precise attitude that has brought SL to its current predicament where the thugs are in power and the people are screaming on the sidelines.
You want change? Get in there and do something. You want to help people? Get to the grassroots and ask for help – there are more than enough people willing to help. You want people to be educated on racism and systemic violence? Get off your high horse and explain in terms that people can understand. The majority of this country has been fed a narrative for decades. Just because it has hurt you does not mean they will come running coz you are screaming that all they hold dear is false. These are delicate matters and posturing on Twitter with its limited reach is really not productive to incite genuine change among the people. It’s just an English speaking community ranting and discussing with each other. It’s not really going where it should. And the danger of such a space is that you assume you are doing great work when in fact you’re a frog in the well asserting itself to its fellow frogs.
My sojourn into Twitter shall remain as it’s insightful but I often find it tiresome with the self righteousness dripping from every tweet. My only relief is the few sensible accounts and the random international accounts I follow including a few food accounts and F1 teams which is comic relief from the utopian wonderland that the Lankan users are positing. This is similar to chats people have at dinner parties in Colombo and Twitter is just a mirror of that complete with the randomness of caterpillars smoking a hookah pipe on a good day.