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October 11, 2019

Providing Perspective In A Clickbait Era: Salva Mubarak

As told to Huzan Tata. Illustration by Osheen Siva

The perks of cyber popularity can undoubtably be intoxicating, but they are exponentially rewarding when you leverage the web to engage in constructive social criticism and open up dialogues. Read about the third in a series of eight prolific posters who are leaving a legacy that goes beyond the likes…

SALVA MUBARAK
Journalist

‘SHOCKING: Has AbRam Khan Overthrown Taimur Ali Khan to Be the New Media Darling?’ ‘Two Leading Ladies Star in a Movie Together Without Hating Each Other and Nothing Makes Sense Anymore.’ These are just a couple of examples of the satirical headlines from Rayon Magazine. The brainchild of former print journalist Salva Mubarak, the website and its Instagram account parody the celebrity gossip fed to people in the name of news. Rayon gets its name from the artificially-created fibre and a play on real magazines Nylon and Polyester, and Mubarak’s ‘fake news’ take on the obsession with Bollywood lifestyle is, at times, so on-the-nose that many readers still mistake her posts to be true.

“I started Rayon because I grew tired of seeing the sort of headlines current popular entertainment and lifestyle news websites create just to get more views. It’s a vicious cycle; no one is really to be blamed. The content creators want views so that they can attract advertisers, and the only stories that get views are those that have a sensational photo or title. Most news outlets that target women have a certain condescending tone that might not be overtly harmful, but is not something people should get influenced by. This is not to vilify the media. I created Rayon to provide perspective in the face of a thousand headlines telling you to drink a spinach smoothie to get abs like Deepika Padukone.”

“I think the reason Rayon has gained internet popularity is that I maintain a very distinct voice for my posts. I’m certainly not the first one to make memes about Bollywood celebrities, but I spend a lot of time making sure that what I’m trying to say is clear and stands out. Another thing is that I keep the tone and aesthetic similar to popular entertainment and lifestyle websites. I feel this creates that double-take moment whenever people read something on Rayon and keeps them coming back.”

“There’s a growing sense of disconnect between the audience and the content they’re seeing online. Sites like The Onion or Reductress allow people to take things lightly and, perhaps, that’s why Rayon has succeeded. There’s also a saturation of online content — especially entertainment-related — and you feel more connected with someone who is calling it out and allowing you to laugh at your obsession with it.”

“I have to edit heavily before I put something out there. It’s both a boon and a curse. I try to think of my reader as someone who has no idea what the site is about and of how they would react to a post. Would they understand the intent behind it, or would they take it wildly out of context? But, I mostly think that as long as you’re punching up with your humour instead of punching down, you should be okay.”

“I find it highly amusing when celebrity fan pages repost content from Rayon thinking it’s authentic. It’s also great when the subject of your post reacts to it. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with this. Vicky Kaushal saw a post about him, and, thinking it was real, tweeted a pretty scathing response to it. When I informed him that it was a parody page, he (probably) got embarrassed and deleted it. Later, I read an interview where he mentioned how foolish he felt after reposting it. Then there was also a post with Sanjay Kapoor dressed in Mastani drag. He thought it was hilarious, and his whole family jumped in to laugh at it. So that was unexpectedly cool.”

“There’s still a large percentage of the online audience that doesn’t really understand what Rayon is about. So, the main challenge is that the discourse is always centred around people saying ‘this is fake’, and the rest, who tell them that they’re stupid. Plus, people are very possessive about certain celebrities, so posting anything about them is a losing battle. Even if I come up with something outrageous and funny, I have to think twice before posting it because I don’t have skin thick enough to deal with hateful essays in my DMs.”

“Instagram’s new feature that hides likes on posts could be revolutionary. It would give creators a chance to be more creative and experiment with new formats. No matter how much I try to avoid letting my content get affected by views and likes, it is definitely a major thought at the back of my mind. I still look at insights and engagements numbers — the positive comments can be addictive, and one negative one can set you on the path of self-doubt. I sometimes stick to a formula that I know will get me the likes, but it might not be what I actually want to post. So, if implemented, I’m hoping this feature will give people the chance to be more authentic with their content. I think it would also open up new avenues for promotional content and influencer marketing.”

“I think people are coming to understand the availability of the different forms of media that they can enjoy. There’s a new demand for accountability from content creators too, which (hopefully) leads to content that not only is conscious of the environment and time it’s positioned in but also is less-formulaic. I think people are becoming desensitised to a lot of things like violence and hate crimes from around the world. That’s alarming, and it can largely be attributed to the fact that we have easy access to all the content we want to consume. But this has also given way to a new brand of content style that rewards quantity over quality.”

Read part 2 here

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