Social Media Warriors On The March
Dr. Sapna M.S. :
Social media platforms have become one of the most used, and also ambushed, media outlets in recent times. Internet penetration and user percentage have been shooting up in India. This outlet not only plays the role of information channel but also serves as a tool for propaganda and opinion moulding.
Accessible 24x7 and easy to use, social media has turned everybody into psephologists. Gone are the days when viewers would seek to be enlightened by the likes of Prannoy Roy, Yogendra Yadav and GLV Narsimhan who did their homework well, thoroughly researched their data and understood the nitty-gritty of elections inside out. Their perspectives, feel and passion for the subject and unique styles of presentation were a joy to follow. Nowadays, thanks to the free-for-all on social media, be it Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or Instagram, everyone has a say on the country’s politics and electoral battles. The question is what kind of content these ‘social media warriors’ generate to influence other users.
After closely observing social media outlets for a month and random content analysis of a section of posts, Facebook emerges a clear favourite as it gives wide visibility to the content which users post on their walls. The posts are usually subjective and completely ideological in nature, related to the party the user supports. Pictures and contents are more used in comparison to videos, memes and trolls are also large in number. The creativity underlying some of these memes has to be appreciated as it is done to enrich visuals. Hindi and local language memes are a hit among users while English memes are not so popular. Film songs and dialogues are liberally used to attract people to political agendas as well as to take pot shots at parties and leaders. The propriety of using such memes, trolls, pictures and videos are rarely taken into consideration by users who forward or share these or tag their friends and followers. Most conversations on FB are hardly constructive; in fact, insults and outright hate speech are frequent.
WhatsApp groups have mushroomed just to discuss politics, where party ideologies are vociferously bandied about, and the moderators find it difficult to keep track of members because someone or the other is exiting because of mudslinging or derogatory comments. In this no-holds-barred battle, users are busy extolling their favourite party leaders while running down their opponents. At the end of the day, social media is reduced to a virtual battlefield where proper research and knowledge count for little, where seeking enlightenment about political and electoral issues remains a futile search.