“How are you?” That’s me.
“Hi,” comes the reply. A few seconds of pleasantries and fake names, “Please send your picture.”
Uh-oh. Two minutes of silence and the chat has been dropped.
In another window, someone asks if I am a girl. As I answer “No,” the window closes on me within seconds.
A third person asks me to text only in Hindi.
These are my first 10 minutes on the “Shake and Chat (with strangers)” feature of the social network app, called ShareChat. Chat without sharing your profile, like a blind date where you are actually blindfolded.
It’s 10 am on Independence Day and I am surfing further on ShareChat. A patriotic post has been seen by at least 177,000 people and shared 6,000 times on WhatsApp. Another image with the national anthem on it has been seen 103,000 times and liked by 1,100 people on my feed, which looks somewhat like Instagram.
I can post anything here—images, audio, video, GIFs or a status that is no less than 50 characters. And I can consume content through two Instagram-style scrolling feeds, one that has posts from my friends and people I follow and another that has “Trending” posts. Immediately below each post are buttons to share it on WhatsApp, like it, enter a comment, flag it as inappropriate or save it to my gallery in the app for later viewing.
Everything on ShareChat is sorted into various categories and subcategories using tags, and I can choose what I want to see by selecting the tag of my choice. ShareChat’s 35-member team usually creates these tags, which are later taken over by the users; there is a separate corner for user-created tags. On I-Day, under the tag “Saare jahaan se acha” are sub-tags like “15 August Special”, “15 August Selfie” and “Agar main Pradhan Mantri hota”.
It’s an interesting assortment of content. While some of these tags are permanent and broad, like jokes or lifestyle, some like the Independence Day are created for different occasions. Everything from good-morning messages and jokes to romantic posts and adult humour has a tag of its own. For instance, the adult humour or sexually suggestive content is titled “Non-Veg”. “Adult content is only for adult audiences. If you can’t share it with your family, tag it NV,” say the platform’s content and community guidelines.
Not all tags are as euphemistic though; most are pretty straightforward, like Mazedar, News and Politics Corner, Jyotish Shastra, Fitness Mantra and Filmy Duniya.