Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
The new-age social change is being triggered on social media with one meme at a time. 26-year-old Jitendra Sharma AKA 'Ted The Stoner' is one of the few individuals who has carved a niche for himself with his witty and actionable content serving twin purpose — to entertain the audience and to make the world a better place.
Speaking exclusively with The Logical Indian, Jitendra Sharma—an animal lover, environment enthusiast and social changemaker shares his journey of starting small to garnering over a million followers on Instagram, the idea behind his cute 'doggo posts' and following the unconventional path to being an "influencer".
TLI: 'Using social media for Good'- How did the 26-year-old Jitendra Sharma come up with the idea to use viral funny content and animal memes to attract the attention of a distracted generation and then to use it to drive a change?
Jitendra Sharma: Ted the Stoner originally started off through Facebook in 2009. The content has changed a lot over the years and I shifted to Instagram in 2014. The content never revolved around animal memes. It is something that the audience just wanted and what started as a 1 am joke post somehow became a ritual. I have been posting about current affairs, climate change, and social evils like acid attacks, racism and any other topics that have been slipping off the audience's attention for a long time. On the page, these written content pieces are popularly known as "Ted's 2 cents".
It has its own different set of audience. With over 1.6 million people on the page, I try my best to cater to the varied set of humour preferences of my audience. Using social media for good was something that just happened along the way when I realised that all of us could collectively be of help to people and animals in need rather than just engaging in fun and political banter online. The community has been super helpful with the causes that we undertake and every bit of credit goes to the amazing audience.
TLI: 'Ted The Stoner'. Why this name and how did you successfully manage to entertain and cause massive social impact without revealing your face?
Jitendra Sharma: The name was pretty random. Since its inception, the idea has always been to entertain and at the same time, share personal opinions on random topics. The idea of a stoned bear putting out random thoughts just seemed funny to me back then. I have always believed in what the page stands for, the ideas. Social impact is something that motivates me and not fame. So, haven't ever been too keen to do a face reveal.
TLI: Why 'Ted' for a social change? Why didn't Jitendra pursue 'conventional' path to secure Roti, Kapda, Makaan?
Jitendra Sharma: I did try the conventional path for four years. Finally, I realised that it was too soul-sucking and these conventional paths replace you in a day because you are not indispensable. I guess I did not want to simply exist. The main aim is to spread laughter and help the world as much as possible. I couldn't see that happening with my regular 9-5 job.
TLI: Social media has played a crucial role in your life and your initiatives. How do you see the medium evolving in the coming years and how can one use it for the greater good? (Rather than just mindlessly scrolling or putting out unnecessary content, can social media be used to create tangible change?)
Jitendra Sharma: We live in an era where a lot of important issues are not covered by the mainstream media. Even when something is covered, a lot of times, facts are turned and twisted. But at the same time, we are also fortunate to live in an era where we are just one decision away from becoming change-makers. This has been possible because of social media. It will keep evolving and changing, but we need to keep two things constant- entertainment and integrity.
TLI: Over 20,000 pet adoptions successfully conducted without spending a dime! Please take us through the process of how these adoptions take place, challenges faced and what prompted you to start this initiative?
Jitendra Sharma: The process is quite simple. There are a lot of new-born puppies as well as fully-grown animals that end up being abandoned by their owners. I use my platform to post-adoption requests and our community has been kind enough to respond to these requests and adopt our beautiful four-legged friends. The process is manual right now, so I am unable to put up every request that I get. Sadly, I can probably put up only 2-3% of the total requests I get. I'm trying to come up with an automated process now so that the number of adoptions can be greater. Hopefully, I will have a much more efficient process in place very soon.
TLI: Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you have a massive following of over 1 million internet users and a sense of concern that nothing should go wrong especially on social media where the credibility can be ruined with one wrong post/tweet?
Jitendra Sharma: I don't think the number of followers is something that's overwhelming for me, but the amount of love and support that comes with it is something that really means the world to me. I think its the intent of the creator that matters the most, more than any other thing. To err is human. If one wrong post or wrong tweet can take away your credibility, then maybe we haven't had any credibility at all, presuming that such wrong post/tweet was not something extreme.
TLI: Do you think the country is headed towards a direction where humour can cost your life? What are the top three things you keep in mind while creating and posting content?
Jitendra Sharma: Unfortunately, the country is already there, just like the rest of the world, where people get murdered for cartoons.
Top 3 questions I ask myself while creating and posting content are:-
a) Is this content adding value to the lives of my audience?
b) Will this content entertain my audience and make them laugh?
c) If it's not going to do any of the above, why am I posting this at all?
TLI: An expert giving an opinion on the country's affairs is completely different from someone on social media voicing their thoughts. A large section of internet users look up to you, I want to know how do you ensure that you keep both sides of the story and not let bias creep in?
Jitendra Sharma: A lot of research has to be done on any topic you choose to speak about. When you cater to a large audience, you also cannot presume things. I learned that with time. Also, it isn't necessary to speak about every topic that comes up your way or something that's trending. It isn't too difficult to state that I'm not informed about a certain topic to form an educated opinion on the same. The audience will respect honesty and transparency. At the end of the day, everyone on the internet is simply giving out a personal opinion. It is up to the end-user to decide which information to soak in and which information should be skipped.
TLI: Any incident or message on social media during all these years that moved your heart or has stayed with you for a reason?
Jitendra Sharma: There are a few such incidents. We had a one-legged dog on our page that wasn't getting adopted. I had to put up a story for him thrice. Later, when he was finally adopted by a family, they sent me a picture of the dog and their specially-abled son, who had lost his legs in a train accident a few years ago. It was the son who chose the dog. There are many texts letting me know that it was my content that helped them maintain a smile on their face during their difficult days and its just satisfying to know that you're the reason behind someone's happiness.
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