A Story of Mistaken Identities in the Digital Era

Throughout history, there have been incidents of mistaken identities and people capitalizing on the same. But today, with easy access to news, whether fake or real, things have changed. Especially with the right wings taking over the world and the collective conservative conscience kicking in, to pick fights with a faction is detrimental not only for the perpetrators but also for their namesakes. There is no limit to the abuses and negativity that tweets and comments shower, many a times reasons unknown to the inflicted, due to remote similarity in names or twitter handles. Digital era has shrunk the world, no one can claim ignorance to any major event continents away. News and details are available on ones’ fingertips and all one has to do is filter it against beliefs and post 140 or more characters to be read by the world.

Many a times mistaken identities are accidents, other times it is pure bad luck. One such example is the Isis mobile app- an app that monetized on NFC capabilities of smart devices to make payments.  The mobile app, in 2014, following the gaining notoriety of the terrorist organization ISIS, rebranded itself to Softcard. A similar incident took place in India last week. Following an alleged remark by Snapchat CEO, Evan Speigel, that Snapchat is not meant for poor countries like India and Spain, Indians were enraged and many decided to boycott the app and rate it one star. But Snapdeal, an Indian ecommerce company, faced the brunt. Many frustrated Indians uninstalled Snapdeal app after mistaking it for Snapchat. The same week, India also witnessed one of its celebrities, Sonu Sood, being trolled for a ‘forced religiousness’ remark made by another celebrity Sonu Nigam.  Yet another case in India was in 2016 when a car brand Zica was rebranded as Tiago only weeks after its unveiling, following an outbreak of Zika virus.

Many of these mistaken identities can be taken care of with swift action, just like Softcard. Softcard intervention was timely, else it would have lost much of its online traffic to ISIS website and its twitter handle would have gone for a toss. Tiago rebranding was well thought, but I can only imagine the pain they would have gone through to come up with a new name and carry out rest of the campaigns.

When we could blame the stars for Softcard and Tiago mishaps, Snapdeal and Sonu Sood are victims of blatant mass ignorance. The mass that follows the crowd despite being ignorant of the root cause and implications of any action or reaction. Even when the impact of such ignorance is not long lasting, a few days of sharing the limelight for the wrong reason with the wrong people has its own consequences. A media release denying any association with the culprit is too over the top, it is only wit and humour that could survive the storm. Preaching to selectively deaf ears is a waste of resources, only remedy being the age-old tongue in cheek reply that hits the right place. Because, the digital era has shrunk not only our worlds but also our brains.

To say the least, even when there’s much ado for nothing, there’s definitely more to a name.

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