Part 1 – Democratic Social Media

Social media is the new voice of young India, at least for those with Internet access. You don’t need a maidaan to make your point because the true citizen in you is only a click away.

Democracy in a country like ours is a fascinating phenomenon. Politics is in constant metamorphosis as more players come in to change the face of the country but what is created in the process is more content – words are spoken, promises are made, hype is created, demonstration take place and all this feeds our innate desire for drama. There’s no fun in peace, dignified dialogue and cordial conduct, and this is where politics blows showbiz out of the water.

Social networking sites have empowered you say what you really feel or don’t feel. There’s no guarantee you are being heard, but it’s floating out there in the universe of messages and some will be heard.

It’s no surprise that in 2014, the sharp rise in online activity during the General Election made it possible to correlate online buzz and BJP’s landslide victory of 427 in the Lok Sabha. To further make my point, the voter turnout was 66.4%; the highest in recent decades but also Internet activity saw a steep climb by 14% from the last time. Should we assume there is a link between the two?

Another factor is that traditional media is becoming unreliable, commercially driven with layered agendas. In search for transparency, many politicians and users are looking at social media for advocacy, voter registration drive and voter mobilisation.

NaMo rules the roost

Ever since his days in Gujarat, beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been the most tech-savvy politician. From the #ModiHangout days to his glorious victory announcement on Twitter to over then 4.2 million followers encouraging them to post selfies with their finger after voting, he has gained traction like nobody else on social media. Today, NaMo enjoys the power of reach through 27 million likes on Facebook, and over 10 million followers on Twitter.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush

In the 2009 elections, there was just a single active politician with 6,000 Twitter followers. In 2014 elections, Twitter became the medium of choice for political discourse and engagement by leaders. With 56 million tweets between January to May the so called #TwitterElections was the most talked about event on social media. Facebook also revealed that from the declaration of elections to the time of result 29 million people in India made 227 million interactions regarding the landmark event. In addition, 13 million people alone had generated 75 million interactions speculating the triumph of Narendra Modi.

Boon or Bane

True that social media offers freedom and flexibility, and that it can instantly connect you with people who are leading your cause. But if it has to safeguard democracy it needs more time.

Millions are illiterate, uneducated and without access to the Internet. It hasn’t yet engaged the poorest and most marginalized resulting in a difference between what seem like national topics of concerns online and offline.

In other cases worldwide, the medium has really benefitted the oppressed. Coined as a kind of Facebook Revolution, the Arab Spring atrocities in countries like Syria, Egypt, Iran and Tunisia were brought to light on social media platforms and got the world talking. Support groups used SMS to send people messages about safety and the people used social media to upload photos and videos of political actions of regimes they were discontented by.

Read Part 2 – Democratic Social Media – Not very rosy, but not that bad
Read Part 3 – Democratic Social Media
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An avid traveller, writer, filmmaker and adventure junkie - Ritesh Matlani started his career 5 years ago in Publishing in the Middle East. Over the years, he's explored the marketing and branding territory in interesting ways. Between producing coffee table books, running a youth media design agency and managing accounts of luxury hotels at an ad agency in Dubai, he managed to travel, learn, love and live.
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