Here's how social media influencers set out to meet the demands of information and entertainment in 2021
In a world that was already heralding the supremacy of social media and the enormous opportunities it had to offer, the pandemic only served to accelerate the transition
In a world that was already heralding the supremacy of social media and the enormous opportunities it had to offer, the pandemic only served to accelerate the transition. Beyond the comfort of cat videos, celebrity specials and disaster compilations, we learnt to look to this platform for more – be it news, a direct means to emergency services, a way to hold the powers that are responsible publicly, newer forms of education or deeper means of connection. Kannalmozhi Kabilan talks to content creators in south India about what it was like setting out to meet these demands.
Where you can find them: @or.junn
Arjun, like many other creatives, found his way to the Instagram reel world in an attempt to escape the direness of reality. “I know comedy was a part of the line and music was something I enjoyed doing. Somewhere when those two came together, it became my USP,” he shares. Thus, this side of the Internet was blessed with the likes of ‘Calling Kannamma’, ‘Tamil Music Directors Attending Calls’ and the music remix series that recently offered a club version of Oo Antava Mava. This also allowed Arjun to put himself in front of the camera, of which he’s had over five years of behind-the-scene experience.
“The best part about digital is that you can come, do four good videos and you’re back in the game. But social media fatigue is real; there is a lot of information you have to process,” he says. While Arjun’s work has largely been in entertainment, rising to the occasion comes naturally when something pertinent calls for a reaction. But reaction should not be for reaction’s sake, he believes. “There is something that you comment out of knowledge and something you do just to say something. I don’t want to be the latter,” he clarifies. He looks forward to putting out more content, consistently. “Ideal goal is a reel a day. Reels have changed the game entirely; I’ve seen creatives go from 3,000 followers to 30,000 in a week with just one reel.”
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Where you can find them: @cap.matsat
Mathur Sathya taps into the ethics of Spiderman (Captain American: Civil War era) to keep at his work: ‘When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.’ Mathur’s superpower may not be of the web-slinging, universe-saving kind, but in a world capitalising on our ignorance and inability. “As insignificant as it is, interpreting policy documents is a mini superpower. I have to put it to use. People find it difficult to process policy documents, court orders, budget documents and such,” he elaborates.
In this backdrop, if you were to look at it in a detached way, it has been a great year for content. But it has been a difficult year for the very reason, for there’s too much for people to take in. “The challenge is to keep the content hopeful. And at the same time, give answers; let them know why they have the problems they do, how the government has been responsible and such. With a lot of 2K kids not relying on day-to-day news consumption, there’s a need to start from scratch. That has been a challenge,” he shares. He’s managed to address this by putting out minute-long videos on subjects of pertinence. But taking on this responsibility has not been easy on him. A short IGTV video requires journalistic research, historical analysis and a comprehensive interpretation of the subject.
The good part is, all this has translated into positive engagement. Beyond mere words of appreciation, people have come back to say they have read the books he recommended, or with doubts on a subject or comments on his interpretation of data. This has been encouraging, he notes. For the coming year, he has many a plan for his Anil Marxist Sangam — an Ambedkarite reading circle that offers weekly classes on politics, economics, history and social sciences, besides skill training. Around 20 students from this group are now doing research in many fields. These, too, are set to make their way to Mathur’s Reels.
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Where you can find them: @satshyaa
Easy!” Satshya’s Reels might end with that catchphrase and she may make it seem just that but there’s much that goes into the life of a content creator on Instagram. The past year has taught her just that. “There is so much I’ve learnt about social media from content creation — social media management, what works/what doesn’t. Social media management is such an in-demand job right now. If people are looking to do content and want to convince their parents, this is a valid argument,” she suggests. Her beginnings were focussed on authentic relatability and the quest to be uniquely herself.
What aided this effort was her impressive aptitude for languages. “That’s become my niche. I started playing around with the things that I used to remember these languages and interesting ways to put them together differently. I wanted to target two groups of people — one, who know the language and will be able to relate to it and two, who are trying to learn the language and will find interesting ways to do so. It was also a personal project for I was not proficient in some of these languages and was trying to learn myself,” she notes.
Her brand of content is part of the increasingly robust representation of regional languages. “For a person to appreciate a culture and language, you can do it through food and phrases. Now, people are becoming a lot more aware of these nuances and differences in what they normally see as ‘South Indian’,” she says. Satshya has many plans for 2022 but if the universe could arrange for a collaboration opportunity with Steve Carrell, it would truly top anything she has in mind.
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Where you can find them: @mayas_amma
The past year has been as stressful as it’s been fun for Swati. When every DM leads to a consultation – for all enquiries tend to be around parenting trouble, lactation woes, mental health problem or sexual counselling and require all her attention – content creation does not tend to be a light affair like it is for many of her fellow mommy bloggers. “I make sure I go through all DMs, which has been difficult ever since I crossed 100K (followers). They are filled with sensitive issues and questions. So, it is very difficult for me to go through them,” she explains. It gets all the more stressful when you factor in her regular workshops. Yet, the overwhelmingly positive response to her content on Instagram has encouraged her to keep going.
“Most people have gone through stuff I talk about. All of us are living in patriarchy; so whatever is connected to that or sexism or misogyny, people are able to resonate with,” she says. Her daughter Maya’s presence in her videos has also aided this effort greatly. When speaking about parenting or teaching children about menstruation and the human body, it helps to actually demonstrate in real life, it turns out. Through all this engagement, it is very heartening to have people improve on their parenting methodology after hearing what she has to say. It has also served to improve her own emotional regulation because she knows everyone is watching. In the months to come, she is hoping to host more physical workshops, while also building a repository of recorded classes.
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Where you can find them: Neelam Social (YouTube)
It’s been exhausting,” begins Sneha. Having begun her journalistic career in digital platforms and progressing to Neelam Social, Sneha is no stranger to the dark side of the news cycle. “Stories keep coming and some are very devastating. I remember Anitha news; I couldn’t look at her face and writing the report was so difficult. When a lot of reports come, I get anxious; it can get overwhelming,” she shares.
As a Dalit woman, and one with mental health issues, the exhaustion is profound. She and her team have been relying on each other, on taking a minute away from work, to cope with the stress that comes with the job. But it is not without its share of fulfilment. And it’s always fun to mock the people in power for their stupidity, she points out. That’s how Ennada Politics Panreenga was born. “We wanted it to be with jokes. But I was not strong at writing jokes in the beginning. Then, Rupesh of Neelam Productions pointed to a few channels that do this well; how even the most tragic news is presented as satire. He pointed out that the people being satirised is not those affected but those in power. That was the turning point,” she recounts, adding, “Prashant Ramasamy, creative lead, has always had my back.
Abisha, Kanishka and I write, shoot, joke and edit together. Abisha does multiple roles in an episode - she handles the camera, edits and acts in different roles.” This laid the ground for the show to be what it is today. “Leaders are scared that they would be laughed at. Having such a tool (comedy) in hand, it is disappointing that our comedians keep their work very problematic. So, it is new territory and there is room to do it well,” she surmises. The response she has received has been enormously positive, thanks to the curiosity people have for news.
That she gets DMs asking her to do videos of specific topics, found an audience in older people too, is proof enough. And all this would not have been possible without the unending support from Pa Ranjith. It’s also the source of collective responsibility, she notes. “Everything we do affects him. And it’s not just Ranjith, he represents a movement. If he is attacked, it’s a blow to the movement in itself. For Dalit people are always vulnerable to such attacks. We have to be careful,” she concludes.
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