Shashi Tharoor and Derek O’Brien, two social network-friendly politicians, met at Max Mueller Bhavan on Wednesday afternoon for a chat organised by The Advertising Club, Calcutta, on the impact of social media on political advertising. Here’s an excerpt of the exchange between the Congress MP and Trinamul leader.
On whether the party knows about the discussion
DO’B: Yes they know. No one wants to get into trouble like Shashi.
ST: What an opening… thank you! When this invitation was issued I made sure the senior leadership of the party was aware of it.
On difficulties in convincing people about the usefulness of social media
ST: When people started taking notice of my tweeting I had a large number of politicians asking me about Twitter. But the ferocious reaction of our mainstream media certainly had a dissuasion effect on many others. I got a lot of unsolicited advice to shut down my Twitter account, including one from a former president of the Opposition party who declared “too much tweeting leads to quitting”…. Derek tweets but I am sure he hasn’t been able to convince Mamatadi as yet.
DO’B: No but she is very tech savvy. And who knows Shashi, Mamatadi may be reading our tweets. You have taught me the art of how to tweet without getting into deep water.
ST: I wish I had taught myself first!
On the productivity of social media
ST: The negatives are that because of the character limit (on Twitter) you could risk saying something that is less than precise. But I think it (the medium) is useful. You can reach a large number of people.
DO’B: You go directly and speak to people reaching out beyond the traditional media and the other thing is that not so much the tweeting but listening to what others say.
On disadvantages of using social media in politics
ST: One is the length of the message. The second danger in our country is that people are not happy to have politicians talking directly through Twitter.
DO’B: The biggest negative is that I have to separate my role in the party and my personal Twitter profile.
On change of tweeting post controversy
ST: I began by saying things informal and light. But I remember the Shakespearean line that “the success of a jest lies not in the tongue of the teller but in the ear of the hearer”. For example when the Kerala CM called Rahul Gandhi an Amul baby and I said it was a good thing Amul babies are strong and focused on the future. On Twitter it created, by my standards, a minor controversy.
On the IPL match at Eden
ST: I am keeping clear of all this IPL business after what it did to me but as a Kerala MP I want to see my team (Kochi Tuskers) win.