By Bhavani Manicketh
Technology, low-cost internet and smartphones have made Social Media the disruptive “game changer”. Until recently NEWS & Narrative was controlled by the media houses and the government. But now, social media has got the common man talking, as his views or his videos can go viral & reach millions of viewers worldwide in no time. Till recently “you heard it first on…” was a tagline of media houses, but not anymore!!
The Onset of Social Media on Politics
The election of one of the greatest democracies in the world, India, has begun from 11th April to 19 May in 7 phases. Usually, it involves the parties and independent candidates campaigning in their various constituencies. BJP was the first to effectively leverage the power of social media in the 2014 elections. The social media team connected with the nation at large to communicate the party’s vision/tag lines such as “achhe din”, “anti-corruption” etc. This activity generated the “Modi Wave” across the country, which led to his landslide victory.
And the tactics continue…
As part of the preparation for the 2019 elections, every national & local party has invested heavily in people, technology and agencies in leveraging social media, in particular, Youtube, Facebook & Whatsapp systematically. This has led to an uninterrupted stream of propaganda, gossip & news. The BJP & Congress with its innovative “MainBhiChowkidar” & “ChowkidarChorHai” campaigns took Facebook and Twitter by storm.
Beware of Phoney Preachers
While the positives are several there are a few negative aspects to the freedom attributed by social media such as the misinformation, fake news & banter. Parties with vested interests and miscreants are misusing this medium to propagate fake news which goes viral due to innocent & gullible users. While Facebook & Youtube have put checks and curbs to control the misinformation & fake news being spread by individuals, it is also the duty of the common man to verify the news before forwarding the same. FB has partnered with third-party organizations to verify posts in 8 Indian languages.
Making a Difference
The biggest advantage of this media is that it has empowered the common man to express his ideas and ideologies. There were several multinationals & individuals uploading videos on FB & Whatsapp, with social messages calling on the nation to vote. Several powerful videos showed executives & differently-abled people traveling a long distance to exercise their franchise.
While a lot has been said & circulated on social media from all quarters, there is no visible indication of anybody changing their views & party loyalties. However, it has ensured a big buzz around the biggest dance of democracy.