The Curious Case of E-Lafdas on Twitter
An obstinate culture that the internet fosters is the callous sense of creating dialogue about things you have, at best, passing knowledge about. Last year, someone in a tweet reproached Twitter users for getting into ‘e-lafdas’ – thus christening the phenomenon that plagues this platform to no end. E-lafda, in Twitter-speak, means an online brawl that quickly gains notoriety on a variety of timelines, and takes on its own character due to the barrage of subtweets, ratio-ing, 10 tweet-long essays that are later unrolled by ThreadApp, and so on.
I would be lying if I said I have not been privy to (and complicit in) the weird wars waged by two ‘progressive’ factions in a discourse war – both of which are self proclaimed allies to the marginalized. The major point of incongruence to these sides is often difference in ideology, but which is superseded by a sense of superiority over who is better. The fixation of creating ‘discourses’ upon the lived experiences of folks you’ve little proximity to – in real life or otherwise, is more damaging than most realize.
There is a great absence of self reflection – the idea of believing you’re justified to opine on anything and everything under the sun is poor judgment in itself. It’s increasingly becoming a tendency for people to become so vested in their thought echo-chambers that they refuse to embrace even slight criticism of their line of thinking. The slight criticism in question then snowballs into a petty back-and-forth that turns personal, ugly, and makes the entire point of the discourse null and void. If the aim is to learn (and unlearn) – a manifesto that so many have adopted on the internet, why does it have to become the equivalent of a high school clique fight?
Twitter has, no doubt, helped me break the faulty socialization I grew up with, as I’m sure it has done for many others. This is the platform where uncountable users amplified medical emergency leads during the devastating COVID second wave in India. It’s foremost, a platform for dissent; something which the government is doing its best to repress. The sad reality is that while a lot of us hoped that it would be a better alternative to the hyper-capitalisation-on-marginalised-lives-infographic-industrial-complex of Instagram, the political dialogue that matters is increasingly drowning in these erratic, reactionary discourses. Conversations on consent, queer politics, capitalism and the making of social justice causes, historical political figures and their legacy of right and wrong – all these things require nuance, patience to learn, and most importantly, the instinct to correct yourself at every possible step. More importantly, the increasing focus towards using Tumblr-Twitter discourses as your point of political learning is harmful because it discards the actual political literature and platforms for knowledge as secondary, ancillary resources.
I have always been wary of people who talk about the ‘evils’ of cancel culture; as they are just scared of a limited collective entity – the internet, that is, to restrict their source of power. We have seen how rarely ‘cancelling someone’, or calling them out on Twitter even translates into real life accountability. We have also seen how the right wing leverages the Internet as a tool to engage in mass propaganda. This has far-reaching repercussions because of the very nature of crony capitalists & fascists occupying positions of power across a wide range of fields.
It’s hard to wake up to a barrage of injustices that threaten so many parts of the world. One should definitely learn about politics, its various facets, and try to do better. But making that sense of injustice about your own vague sense of superiority – to make someone’s lived experiences a part of your pissing contest on the internet, is not only selfish, but really violating too. You started a discourse – a question, which may have evolved into something worth pondering upon with time and nuance. But of course, which ended with people dunking aggressively on each other (in standard Twitter mean-speak), and both sides of the equation holding steadfast to the opinion they’ve always held.
These discourses, most cruelly, often erase actual important conversations started by the marginalized in these spaces. We should be hearing bahujan folks on the internet, rather than arguing about the nature of their oppression from the comfort that our upper caste privilege affords us. We should be amplifying sex workers and their stories, opinions and thoughts; rather than taking up space in a culture that stifles them in the first place. Obviously, not all of them will have the same thought process or opinion in the same direction, but it is significant regardless to hear them. A large number of people have gotten so entrenched in their self-created savior complex that they’ve made actual issues of oppression about their selfhood. This is extremely dangerous for our culture, and it’s becoming troublingly ubiquitous. Perhaps it’s especially jarring because you’d expect much better from people who rally behind progressive causes – that promise change in an irrevocably broken system of capitalism and patriarchy.
I hope more people understand how pointless these discourses are, and how they’re ruining the potential of a space that can actually be used for far more meaningful political expression. It is important for people to have a personal reckoning, to stop casting themselves at the center of whatever cause they are advocating for – to not make it about I, Me and Myself. No issue or ideology is small enough to be articulated perfectly by just one person, and the criticism that invariably follows is consequential. There should be ample space to invite criticism, apologize and own up to your faults rather than doubling down with petty insults. None of us are perfect. The internet has created this bizarre myth of projecting yourself as someone who already knows everything about everything there is to know – and we have to acknowledge that it is not the way we should aspire to be.