Becoming famous is not any more the right of a select few, thanks to social media

techspectation panelists
(Clockwise from top left) Kiruba Shanker, Ebbin Jose, Mrinal Das Vengalat, Sabareesh Narayanan, Kyle Fernandes

The panel discussion on 'Creators & new age video platforms' at Manoramaonline's Techspectations 2020 was also a demonstration of how social media has empowered individuals to freely pursue their dreams, to blaze their own trail. If there was a bit of fire and lots of desire, it appears as if social media would make sure nothing stood in the way.

Ebbin Jose was outside the country for 17 years doing corporate management and development science before he indulged in his passion for travel and food through vlogging. “I didn't even know how to handle a camera, leave alone editing,” Ebbin said during the discussion.

The only stand-up comedy Sabareesh Narayanan was exposed to were the 'Chakyarkoothu' performances in temples close to house as a child and yet turned out to be Kochi's first English stand-up comedian doing live shows in metros like Bangalore. He also lived in a city, Kochi, where open mics (stand-up performances staged in cafes and pubs) were unheard of even four years ago.

Kyle Fernandes is a nerd of the highest order, a programming buff, but it was he who founded Meme Chat, one of the most popular platforms in the world for creating funny memes.

There are also others like management consultant Mrinal Das Vengalat who does vlogging seriously but still keeps it strictly separate from what he does for his daily bread: a restaurant consultant working for global brands. “If people come to me watching my vlogs, I almost certainly will turn them down,” Vengalat said.

Though he prides in the conventional side of his personality, Vengalat is fully aware of what local media has brought to the table. “Even five years ago, nobody had a platform to express themselves. The only option was to go to a television or radio station or a print media outlet and ask for their help. But the success rate was pathetic,” he said and added: “If Amitabh Bachchan's voice was rejected by the All India Radio, just imagine how compelling ordinary chaps like us could ever have been.”

But now we have someone like Ebbin Jose, who in 2017 could not possibly distinguish between the various types of cameras on offer better than he would the dolphins he spotted in some exotic island he had gone visiting, emerging as perhaps the most popular vlogger in Kerala. “I mostly learned online. All that you want to know is on YouTube. Of course, my friends and viewers, too, helped,” he said. Essentially, he was self-taught.

If Ebbin was trying to show the way by example, innovators like Meme Chat's Kyle are trying to produce as many creators, trailblazers, as possible from among the millennials and Gen-Zs. “We have to make our platform so easy to use that everyone becomes a creator,” he said.

Popular social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook try to monetise viewership. Money comes with increasing views. But Meme Chat pays to create content. This could create an excess of content, and Kyle is aware of the problem. “We, of course, face the problem of content moderation,” he said.

For stand-up comics like Sabareesh, moderation is the byword. At the most, they will put out three or four short videos of their comic acts on social media a year. “We want these videos to drive people to our live shows,” Sabareesh said. Their social media presence is only a lure, a trailer of sorts.

And stand-up comics will not allow their live shows to be recorded. “We are not like singers who can go on performing their hit numbers everywhere. No one asks a comedian to play a good joke a second time,” Sabareesh said.

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