In India, blogging became a widespread hit when it first came into being. It is easy to write a blog, it is mostly free, and it is fun. For today’s everyday netizens, especially for those who like to read and write a bit, blogging has always been a huge getaway and has remained omnipresent in their daily lives of for the past decade or so. It pretty much still is, right? Hold on to that thought for a while.
On the second day of Bangalore Literature Festival, Amit Varma – a very popular and established novelist based in Mumbai – gave a short speech on the current state of blogging and podcasting and then had a detailed Q&A session with the audience. Amit strongly believes blogging has shaped the way modern-day netizens think or communicate. A blog could transcend geographical and cultural boundaries and could create disruption, and challenge the status quo.

Blogging checked and challenged the main-stream media in a way nothing had ever done before. People were no longer dependent on mainstream media for information or perspective. On the other hand, creative content writers could set aside rules and restrictions that come attached with the mainstream and could enjoy this new found freedom to express their wish & will, without anything to worry about. Blogging simply meant better writing or reading experience. It meant freedom.

But according to Amit, the likes of social media giants such as Facebook & Twitter have unfortunately and unknowingly killed blogging. To easily reach audiences, and to get quicker response and feedback on creative content, most of the blogging lot has shifted to mainstream social media. There are niche blogs for specific content like technology or Photography, but the core essence of blogging, when anybody could open up his or her PC and write his or her mind out without caring for who is going to read or comment, is missing. In today’s social media, writing a speech is easy and making a mockery out of something or somebody is even easier. Notwithstanding the benefits of social media, it does create polarization.

Blogging indeed is a bit passive, whereas, on social media, everything is instant and real-time, and hence the shift. Instant gratification as some might call it. Somebody could argue that social media makes it easier to get audiences, but the whole point of blogging was to not care for audiences! The author also argued that social media gave rise to fake news and confirmation bias i.e. the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. “People believe what they want to believe” – said Amit in a pessimistic tone, and pointed out to the market for fake news. There is a ton of unverified information on social media and based on that same information, people are getting divided and polarized every day. Creating social unrest at such a huge scale was never so easy.

So what can we do, except turning a blind eye?
Some people are actually doing something about this. Amit mentioned of Pratik Sinha’s Alt News – an anti-propaganda and fact-checking website. Their job is to fish through the internet for fake news and expose the truth. But thanks to social media, the sort of scale at which fake news works in present India, more such people and websites are needed and hopefully, they will come.
Amit went on to talk about how nascent is podcasting in India and there is a lot of scope for such a culturally new concept. But according to him, creating content for a podcast – an episodic series of digital audio or video is a more serious business than casual blogging.

When asked about the future of podcasts in India, the novelist said that the key lies in the quality of content and the overall presentation. Working on these two parameters will drive growth and help create such an eco-system.

Finally, the author finished mentioning that the advances in technology are a huge relief. Even though present-day governments are deploying more restrictions, and can try to control and monitor our everyday lives in future, we can use technology to pass on the right information to people and empower them. But whether they will make the ‘right’ choices, is something the author seemed surprisingly pessimistic about. Maybe he wants us, the netizens, to answer that question for him.

About the Author: Soumik Seth is an avid follower of music, current affairs, stock market, economy, and filmography. He currently writes for Bookstalkist.