Gulshan Devaiah

Last month, actor Gulshan Devaiah replied to a tweet asking what Kangana Ranaut’s best performance was in just three words: Tweeting as Rangoli.

“My God, it got so much traction. It was in the news some 900 times and got retweeted so much,” he says. The tweet’s one of many tongue-in-cheek observations the actor’s made on Twitter over the past few months. At a time when doomscrolling is all too real and social media leaves one feeling worse for the wear, he seems to have mastered the art of using it to have fun. “The pandemic is when you’re really cut away from everybody else and when you’re isolated,” he explains. “That’s what made me realize that I really need to hold on to my sense of humour, because that’s the only thing that will help me get through this.” Devaiah uses Instagram to leave comments on friends’ posts and Facebook – which he describes as “one of the most IT cell-infiltrated places” (the other being WhatsApp) – to share his mother’s poetry. Twitter, where he set up an account in 2011, is where he spends most of his time. He talks us through his social media strategy:

Handling his own accounts

The actor doesn’t have a social media team, instead he spends a couple of hours every morning and at night after 9.30 pm – he admits that’s increased since lockdown began – checking his notifications and replying to tweets. “All the tweets are like mine, all the retweets are mine, the good ones, the bad ones and sometimes the dodgy ones,” he says. He hasn’t thought of a broader online strategy, except when it comes to promoting projects he’s in, for which he takes his cues from contracted social media agencies.

Dealing with trolls

Devaiah sometimes responds to trolls privately, which he says always surprises them because they expect the account to be handled by a social media manager instead. The only time he’s affected by their comments is when they use abusive language towards his parents, but he diffuses the situation by trying to figure out if these are real people or just bots.

“Many times, I start typing something in return. And then I delete it. I’m like: No, no, no, this is exactly like what I shouldn’t do. I shouldn’t let it get under my skin,” he says. He applies the same philosophy to tweets that people appreciate or make viral. “I feel really good for five seconds. After that, I move on. That’s social media – today, everybody will talk about you and tomorrow, they’ll say something else.”

While tweeting about Kangana is the fastest way to attract trolling, he’s realized, what amuses him is that many of her fans follow him only to keep tabs on what he’s saying. “Sometimes they’ll even say nice things like: By the way, you were really good in that film. Or, oh, cute picture,” he says. It makes the rapid 180-degree turnaround to abuses when he does tweet the actress that much more bemusing.

Why he doesn’t want to be verified

The actor hasn’t applied for a blue tick on Twitter, and has no plans to, despite his friends’ urging. Another thing he has no interest in – buying bots to inflate his follower count. “Media companies are constantly messaging and trying to sell me fake followers. I get offered two-month packages, six-month packages,” he says. He’s also devised how to spot whether other large accounts avail of such services. “Some Twitter accounts have 30,000 followers, but after three months that drops to 4,000. That means they haven’t extended their package and so their followers have vanished. I have a little quiet laugh about it,” he says.

What he wishes Twitter would change

The actor likens the ugly side of Twitter to the voyeuristic nature of Bigg Boss, where no thoughts are too demeaning to be broadcast. “There’s so much name-calling,” says Devaiah. “If you’re opposing something, do it with dignity.”

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