Media has always played a significant part in the society. It is not only used for reporting events and incidents but also builds public opinion. Now how has the media space evolved and changed through the years?
Enter social media. For India i.e. the world’s largest democracy, the social media is literally a platform that reflects the core of the society. The beauty of democracy lies in the fact that there is freedom of expression and also a venue that is provided to view opinions from different sections of the society.
Social Media and the International Scenario
It all perhaps started with former U. S President Barack Obama’s use of social media in his Presidential Campaign. The idea received world wide acclamation and was largely talked about. His approach created a strong relationship between the voters and himself.
Of course now one can’t say that Trump won because he has a Twitter account. Also the various changes in the migratory rules cannot be attributed to the use of Snapchat. This further makes us want to know- What effect does social media have on democracy?
At several instances we have come across ways where in the internet has caused damage to a properly functioning democracy.
Take for instance Facebook. It was originally made to interact and keep friends, family and acquaintances connected. However as the years passed by, one could witness how it was being used negatively. An example would be of a false story in Australia that reported about how the first Muslim woman to be a Member of Parliament had refused to lay a garland on national day of remembrance. One can easily imagine the number of abusive comments she received on her Facebook page.
Often times social media has even been a reason for harassment. Even authorities at times use this as a medium to abuse citizens. If an issue in a locality is reported or a video is put up on a social media platform, authorities take it upon themselves to threaten locals by warning them of possible consequences.
Few countries have had positive implications as well. In Iceland, whenever people move to a new neighbourhood, they join the official community page on Facebook. This enables them to connect with their representatives through posts and tags. Issues that they want to be addressed at the Parliament are pushed here and discussions are encouraged. This energises local governance worldwide.
The Indian context
While we speak right now there are thousands, a part of young India who are hooked onto their laptops, work stations, smart phones and not the age old television sets. This makes accessing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , YouTube all the more easier. The result ? In every sphere be it politics, civic issues, work etc. the youth of India has a strong participation and say today.
Since 2014 we have witnessed the influence social media has had on India’s National Elections. Twitter and Facebook have been used extensively by BJP and Narendra Modi. Their popularity and reach over social media is commendable. Several Facebook pages have been dedicated to Modiji and he can hands down win the contest on Twitter for maximum followership. No doubt social media worked wonders for our dear Prime Minister.
W.r.t the political scenario social media is here to stay. The nascent political parties like the Aam Aadmi Part (AAP) used the social media to get support and connect like minded people. Even their meetings, protests and agendas are channelized through social media platforms.
Social media activism is a very powerful tool. However on the flip side, issues like advertising revenues influence what comes out on social media. Public opinion can be altered by those who shell out a huge amount on this. It becomes a danger to democracy and may have negative effects.
Let us hope that instead of creating havoc and confusion, this tool is used to connect all the citizens at large, be it the young or the old, the urban or the rural, the rich or the middle class. After all social media is about the people and so is democracy.
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