Prof Mithilesh Kumar Sinha
Nagaland University, Lumami
After ‘tech savvy’ it is the ‘social media savvy’ that has become synonymous with today’s generation. Social Media is the kaliyug dharma. Social Media is the major tool of democracy. Used positively will deliver positive results for the political parties – at elections and at other times too. There are IT wings today in every party that try to shape public opinion by peddling both truth and modified truth. There are lies and scare mongering too. Social media is playing a vital role in People’s mandate.
Social media is comparatively a new form of communication around the world. This has rapidly grown in importance as a forum for political activism in its diverse forms. Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube provide new ways to stimulate citizen engagement in political life, where elections and electoral campaigns have a central role. Personal communication via social media brings political parties closer to their potential voters.
The social media is now being widely used to communicate with people, gain support and mobilise the voters. Twitter has become the source for election news and traditional media is severely lagging behind. The idea that an election candidate can send a tweet to his voters and get response on the same day is revolutionary.
Political parties are becoming tech savvy and realizing that social media is the only way to reach out to the youth. new media have changed the way that candidates and their campaigns interact with citizens, providing unprecedented opportunities for two-way dialogue and interaction. According to a 2014 Pew Research Centre survey, 16 percent of registered American voters used social media platforms like Face book and Twitter to get political information and follow election news during the 2014 US midterm elections, more than doubling the number of registered voters who used social media for the same purpose in 2010. Additionally, more and more Americans are also using cell phones to follow political news, with 28 percent of registered voters having done so in 2014.
As the number of internet users across world is climbing up, these strategies will become more effective in both predicting and influencing election results. If we take a look at the Indian context, the number of internet users in 2019 is projected to be over 520 million, over 50 percent of whom will be on Facebook. The penetration of smartphones is also projected to increase to 48 percent by 2019. As more Indians embrace social media platforms, it will be easier for campaign managers to customize and disseminate their messages to a well-segmented audience. As voters would be getting information not just from a party’s official accounts but also from enthusiastic supporters and volunteers, it would be difficult for them to verify the authenticity of claims. Short of arranging a coup or physically hacking the end result, the Big Data methods of social media manipulation and engineering in adverse hands could come very close to dictating the outcome of the next general elections. This should be a true nightmare for any election commissioner.
Reasons why social media is increasingly becoming important for the politics of our country:
1. Easy way to disseminate information to a large audience
2. Tool for citizen engagement by promoting a two-way communication – Many political parties use social media to invite suggestions for their election manifesto, take feedback from the people about their current performance etc. Thus, it ties the people with the political party by creates a sense of belongingness and involvement.
3. Increases transparency –The work of the political party is floated on the social media and real-time feedback from the citizens is encouraged. It also helps the party to communicate its goals and ideologies as well as give a detailed analysis about the amount of work that has been accomplished. It also encourages political candidates to speak more truth rather than selling rhetoric to the voters during their election speeches.
4. Voice of the marginalized people – The people who were marginalized earlier can now communicate their ideas to a big audience with considerable ease. This will set the platform for the formation of new political alternatives and greater options for the voters. This will also bring in more accountability to the veteran political parties as they can be shown the door if they don’t work.
5. Cost effective – Social media incurs low cost when compared to other modes likes print or electronic media for the communication of information. This opens the field for a large number of players to contest in the race who were earlier not able to compete due to a shortage of funds.
Even though politicians for their campaign still use posters, cut-outs, fliers, graffiti and personal rally’s to reach and win over voters but with the social media changing the picture of urban India, political parties are becoming tech savvy and realizing that social media is the only way to reach out to the youth. These young politicians of India have adopted social media because they know that is where today’s youth is. These leaders believe in inclusive growth and have always encouraged the youth to participate in politics. We know that most of the voters are of between 18–45age group and the extent by which they are active on their social profile has seen a drastic increase in last few years. The partiality of main stream media and selective news publishing are one of the greatest reason for ‘why most of the people leaning towards web media in turn social media’. Nowadays surveys are being done on social channels to create election manifestos. Slowly Slowly every political representative are seen active and taking part in social debate.