When you are a celebrity – even if young and new – each and every public act, every social media activity gets noticed immediately by a lot of people whose job is to track these developments. Conversations and opinions take root around them and sometimes balloon beyond expectations, out of hand. Young actor Zaira Wasim of Dangal struggled with this phenomenon today when she posted an open apology on her Instagram and Facebook accounts for her decriers and bullies – many of whom bashed her for meeting with Mehbooba Mufti, cast her work in the movie as un-Islamic and even cursed her and her family to ‘Hell’.
It almost immediately became national news – picked up by all majors news outlets. It seems that she had hoped it would stay a low-key affair, as it was meant to be a protecting disclaimer against those entities whose feathers had been particularly ruffled after her meeting with Mufti. Instead she unwittingly made breaking news, and then felt the need to retract her words and explain her intentions in the new post that followed. That too did not serve as a closing explanation, but got widely noticed, reported and became fodder for talk. Then she deleted it, hoping to stem the attention for good. But that was just not feasible as deletions mean very little in the era of screenshots when people are monitoring closely for the next development. Moods are tracked live through what gets posted, what responses it garners and what disappears. In the era of social media, it gets pulled into the national digital pulse — however transiently.
Open apologies on social media usually guarantee news but little else of use, especially in this case. The desperation in Wasim’s actions as a harassed, helpless 16 year old was palpable. And that is something we cannot overlook. At the end of the day the trolls might well consider the fact that she is just a child. But one cannot be sure if the dark knights of trolldom will afford that concession.
Perhaps the silver lining of this ordeal for Wasim has been the support that has been voiced for her — including from the wrestlers Phogat sisters — as a counter to her bullies’ low-profile toxicity. However, the episode should come as a lesson that social media is a double edged sword just like celebrity popularity which adds extra edge to it.
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