The Internet Rebel: A New Religious Order?

Posted by Chandan Sarma in Society
June 19, 2018

If the mid and late 20th century was the age of romantic left-leaning ideology for the urban educated youth, the 21st century seems to be the breeding ground for virtual statuses, virtual philosophising and virtual protest for the same group.

The internet age, with platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter, is changing the way our generation interacts with itself and with the society. We have developed a stunning new sense of tastes: likes, dislikes and super likes. And we make it a point to celebrate festivities ranging from rose day to chocolate day. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are the times when the world comes to know about our eternal parent-child bonds. An outing is no outing without a photo and a status. A sporting event is not complete without our expert commentary on not just the result of the event but on the many nuances leading to the result. We ran a marathon, the world must know. We ate this fish at a new place, the world must know. We travelled to reflect in secluded mountains, the world must know.

We are a new tribe; “I-Generation”- “I” for the internet and “I” because everything flows from an “I” perspective. The “I-Generation” is more committed to the cause of the virtual world than any social structure can fathom. Not a single day goes by without our active or passive participation in our new religious order. We may be walking, talking or riding a car but we make sure that we are faithful to our cause all the time.

And the luminary or the Brahmin of our group is the mysterious sect called the Internet Rebel or “I-Rebel”. The “I-Rebel” is not exactly a person or a virtual user; it is the metamorphosis members of the sect undergo as soon as it accesses the internet. And strangely enough, this cult has an opinion and an expertise on everything under the sun. There is another commonality in this elite group – they are very angry and want to change the status quo. And which better place to change the status quo than the internet. I have lost count of “I-Rebels” (friends and strangers) on the internet venting on monetary policies, foreign policy, the complicated Kashmir issue and even poverty alleviation programs. Interestingly, they also seem to have a prescient idea about which party or politician is best fitted to rule the country and why anyone who does think on those lines, are decaying outliers.

The “I-Rebel” argues with genuineness and resorts to facts, data, rumours and even epistemology to drive its point home. One can only appreciate the ability of the “I-Rebel” to pick up hearsay and propagate it to a point where the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. But the “I-Rebel” is not just about propaganda. It has virtually changed the value system in my group just by imagining things and typing them.   It calls for affirmative action against corruption, hates religious appeasement and would give a virtual voice to any cause that aligns to its ideology. Reservation, religion and politics are areas that unify most member of this privileged and enlightened sect within my group.  Ironically enough, the “I-Rebel” refuses to entertain any other point of view apart from their own. The bigger irony, for a group changing the status quo, is that it will simply be blind to events beyond its worldview.

The “I-Rebel” is present in all mundane places:  offices, colleges, universities, and even the doctor’s chamber. The other day, I happened to visit a doctor (who was busy with his laptop) to get a few shots of painkiller for my neck spasm. The complex maze of changing expression on his face told me that the “I-Rebel” was having trouble switching to the more sober mode of patient examination. The “I-Rebel” in the office sneaks into its battleground as soon as no one is around, fights for its cause and moves out, knowing well it will evoke many responses from its fellow comrades when it joins the battle later in the evening.

Although this luminous cult has a strong legion of ardent rebels, I sometimes fear for its future; a recent instance being a fellow comrade abandoning the cult altogether and bitingly suggesting that I was still part of an anarchic system.  Many of his friends were also deserting the cult.  However, more than the wavering of these elites, I am worried about the regular Joe from our religious order.  He is no more fighting the battle with the same intensity as he used to. His weekend rendezvous pictures are only being shared once in six months. His status has not been updated in three months. Last year, the same convert had a frequency of updates every single day and pictures every week. Alas, he has become a passive follower.

I also have another apprehension. The members of my faith are not just restless but tend to be bored by minute monotony or even the slight overdose of anything, be it cricket matches, going to office or supporting anti-corruption crusades. My brethren will run out of causes. At this rate, my new religious order will suffer a fate similar to the many barbaric cults that had so many followers before being shown the path to redemption.

However, right now my religious order is still holding up with many late members joining the battleground. But who are all these late entries: our parents! I am unsure how long this equilibrium will sustain in the family. It was so awkward the other day when my mother liked and shared my picture at a bar and called me in the evening to check what was I drinking?

But it is not yet the appropriate time to talk about doomsday. I am back from office after a long day and I desperately need a cause to fight.  Let me write a scathing comment on how inept a newspaper article is!