Friday, December 01, 2006

SMS Now!!!

Anyone soul who has ever switched on a television set or ever been in front of one – particularly when its beaming one of the many news channels that have mushroomed has been subject to one of these exhortations.
  • ifyou want Saurav Ganguly to be included back into the cricket team, SMS to 2424 now…
  • if you want Bharati Yadav to speak the truth in Nitish Katara murder case, send an SMS to 6388…
  • if you want to President Kalam to change his hair style send us a message at 8888…
  • if you want Ash to marry Abhishek send us an SMS,
  • if you want Lalu to have one more kid – send us an SMS…

Yeah…I won’t be surprised if the last one too shows up some day on one of these channels.

And why not? Aaj Tak began this crazy marketing gimmick few years ago – and what a gimmick. TV channels in partnership with the service providers have been raking in a cool moolah for a while… each time a gullible viewer yields to the exhortations and punches away an SMS, either voting on some irrelevant questions or sending in a comment which no one cares for. And of course, there are millions of such gullible viewers in this land of tube addicts. The folks at the channel who worked out this idea for the first time must have got a hefty bonus for it…

But what amuses me beyond limit is the stupidity of the questions… and worse still the stupidity of thousands of viewers who actually spend their own money (sending one such sms costs anything between Re1 to Rs6) responding.

Do people really fall for the idea that their SMS will cause a change of heart in Bharti Yadav… or does CNN-IBN claim to have a power to influence the judges with the revenue they earn from the poll campaigns.

Do people believe their SMS will pressurize BCCI into picking Saurav again (he did it finally)… or does the Star News mean to tell the viewers that they can actually buy him a place in the team with the revenue they earn…

Or they can sign up the President for a image makeover contract with some good deal, or convince the Bacchaans, Rais and the stars to fall in-line with the public opinion.

If not, then what compels these people to really send in those SMS’s…?

To my understanding, the closest explanation that exists is – a false sense of control. People get a false sense of ego satisfaction and control over forming an opinion – which, given the total lack of control we otherwise have in spite of our democratic setup, is a huge boost for the otherwise battered middle class. Having failed to get their due from politicians they elected, the bureaucracy that abuses them, the judiciary that keeps them waiting, the taxes that don’t benefit them… the thousands of actions they take daily without a power to change anything and not off their own sweet will – people get a false sense of salvation – when they get to give an opinion. Not withstanding that this vote of their makes no difference to anything at all – except to their next cell phone bill. Not withstanding that the result of all such polls is more predictable than the way Indian cricket team will loose next time. Not withstanding that this poll and its result will be forgotten the moment the next breaking news happens…

Reminds me of a dialogue in “You’ve Got Mail” where Tom Hanks’ character says something like –

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!"

That’s the story of this Indian middle class viewer too…

2 comments:

How do we know said...

so true!!

Manish said...

hi. nice post! i mirror your sentiments...what surprises me though is why do the questions need to be so dumb?

but maybe the lowest common denominator of understanding is at play!

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