Technology is a great leveler for it brings disparate individuals or groups that are divided by age, sex, region,
language, caste and creed, on an even keel. The phenomenal growth in the spread of Internet, computers and smartphones
has created a churning of sorts in the vast demographics that are spread across the world. And India being home to one
of the largest educated middle classes, figures prominently in this churning. As
democracy strikes deep roots in India, a new aspirational class has emerged that envisions of a nation which is
better governed and focused on improving the lives of its people.
This tech savvy aspirational class mostly in the age group of 18-35 has brought about a paradigm shift in how the media
is perceived and used as a medium in disseminating or gathering information. The new media that has become the most
sought after platform for this age group is none other than the social media.
What is Social Media?
Thanks to the development of cloud or the
Internet, portals such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or Reddit have become easily accessible, wherein by
just opening an account one can be a part of this vast multitude of people having a worldwide footprint. This vast
multitude that runs into billions uses these platforms in many a ways, mostly to share information about them. The
instant sharing nature of these platforms is what has drawn people in droves. Moreover, as social media is
Internet based, its sweep is beyond the narrow confines of geography, nationality and community. And as this
form of media is available in most of the major languages spoken around the world, it has people in its ambit that are
not necessarily conversant in English only. And not only youth but people of all generations are a part of this
platform. Have a look at the stats:
Its role as an equalizer is evident in the way celebrities, sportspersons, politicians, CEO’s, and commoners can
interact with each other on any given topic. The feel of owning a personal space on the Internet sets this
type of media apart from any other forum. It is indeed empowering as people can directly interact with the powers that
be, bring up their concerns, and can act as a force multiplier to even influence policies – Brexit being one.
Traditional Media Stands vis-a-vis Social Media
The role of traditional media in shaping up opinion on about every conceivable sphere is well known. However, its
passive nature of information dissemination stands out in sharp contrast to the active nature of interaction possible on
social media. And as more and more people are joining the digital bandwagon, the role of traditional media seems
to have shrunk. Importantly, thanks to the one-sided communication being part-and-parcel of traditional
media, readers are forced to accept what has been printed in a newspaper or shown on television. This becomes alarming
when editors subscribing to a particular political or social ideology use traditional media to disseminate a particular
strand of thought.
This makes this form of media to appear as biased – an unfortunate outcome given the expectation of neutrality from the
fourth pillar of democracy. Social media, on the other hand, is the game changer as people of all hues can simultaneously
interact, dissect and share information. No one can tar the social media with accusations of bias as people with
opposing views on a given subject can easily counteract the dominant narrative, should the need arise with facts,
figures, videos and illustrations. Check out the average time spend on social media on the everyday basis:
In fact, the power and reach of social media is such that even the traditional media is forced to make their presence
felt on such platforms. Thus, one can find media houses such as The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindu, and
many others having separate accounts on social media.
Impact on Politics
Traditionally, the political parties use to strategies, reach voters, know their preferences, and disseminate ideologies
& salient features of their manifesto by employing a plethora of methods. These methods include putting
advertisements in newspapers, radio, television, and roadside hoardings, undertake pamphlet distribution,
carrying out door to door campaigns, and conducting street corner meetings & mega rallies.
However, with the advent of social media there has been a major paradigm shift in the way political parties and
individual leaders carry out campaigns. Even though traditional means of campaigning as mentioned above have not been
discontinued per se, major focus has been given to social media about the way dissemination of messages is carried out
to the target audience. In fact, the growing inclination towards the social platform has garnered a good chunk of
followers of the political parties for their social campaigns:
The demographic presence on social media, especially of the youth, is such that every political party or leader worth
his or her salt wants to court them. Every political party employs a backroom team of tech savvy individuals who carry
out constituency wise research about the prevalent issues and possibly gauge the ‘mood’ of the electorate. The team
identifies likeminded user groups and sends across the desired messaging. For example: if user groups are found to post
articles, newsfeeds, videos, or images on animals, the concerned political party having interest in the field can
directly approach them. Many a times, these user groups become surrogates of a political party or formation by
creating echo chambers where similar types of information are shared and debated.
Importantly, social media has become an excellent platform for political parties as they can reach any number of voters
without much expense. In fact, in the 2014 elections India, the increase in the daily number of followers on social
handles of the major political parties namely, BJP, Congress and the new kid-on-the-block AAP, is humongous. Here is the
In contrast, traditional means of campaigning cost huge sums of money. The political parties tactfully strategize how,
where and what social platform to be used for spreading their election campaigns. The 3 major political parties during
the elections have smartly managed their available resources to grab attention of the voters. See how they have used
every bit of the social platform to reach out the population:
Even the Election Commission of India has found the social media useful and a ready platform to register voters, educate people on their voting rights and the importance of
casting their votes.
How Individual Political Leaders have used the social media?
When it comes to social media and the way it has been used in election campaigning, a few names stand out – Barack
Obama, Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, and Arvind Kejriwal. Even important policies with the potential to impact
national, regional and global course of events in terms of economics and security have used social media – Brexit
being a leading example.
If some social commentators’ views are taken into account the 2014 parliamentary elections in India can be called
watershed elections where the role of social media was significant if not decisive. In fact, some even prefer to call it
the social media elections given its extensive use in analyzing, campaigning and messaging the target audience. Even
though the outcome of elections was mainly determined by factors such as corruption at high places, policy paralysis
etc., social media platforms were judiciously used by the Bhartiya Janata Party to reach not only its core voters but
also fence sitters.
n fact, Mr. Narendra Modi has become the most sought after leader on social media with
a vast group of followers on both Facebook and Twitter accounting above 40 million and 29 million,
respectively. In this he is preceded only by Mr. Barrack Obama, the erstwhile President of US. During
the 2014 elections, Mr. Narendra Modi had used Twitter and Facebook with devastating effect on his opponents. In fact,
one of his tweets post the 2014 election victory stating ‘India has won, acche din
aane wale hain’ became the most trending tweet across the globe.
Mr. Modi and his team deftly use the social media to post quips, statements, photos, videos and illustrations. And while
doing so, he chooses to bypass the traditional media (print and electronic), as more often than not
this section of the media is unfavorably disposed to him or the government.
Even today, he makes sure that every member of his team remains active on social media and responds to the queries,
feedback and problems of the people of India. In fact, considering the history of politics in India, BJP stands
out to be the first party to start interaction with the people through social media platforms, followed by AAP and
Right from his meeting with global dignitaries to his family members, Mr. Modi makes sure to share his pics with his
followers throughout the world.
Not only this, but our respected PM also gained appreciation worldwide for his Swachh
Bharat Mission, wherein he shared the images of him sweeping a street followed by another image showing the same
street amazingly clean.
Another leader who has used the social media to great effect is Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. This bureaucrat turned
anti-corruption crusader turned politician had formed a nascent political party called the Aam Aadmi Party or
The Common Man’s Party on the sidelines of India Against Corruption movement launched by the octogenarian social
reformer, Mr. Anna Hazare. Such was the craze and credibility of Mr. Arvind Kejriwal among people cutting
across class, region and religion that his party was catapulted to the seat of power in Delhi by a whopping 67 seats. In
fact, when his party was launched as a crusade movement against corruption and old style redundant form of governance, a
good number of people from the media and corporate world left their careers and joined the party. This tech savvy lot
had successfully matched the BJP in formulating campaign strategies on social media for AAP.
Consequent to the elevation of these two leaders as PM and CM, other leaders too were ensnared by the reach and power of social
media. Now, there is hardly any leader who is not active on social media, and more often than not their success or
failure is determined by users on this media itself.
Future of Social Media
With digital becoming the numero-uno medium for almost everything, the role of social media is going to increase
manifold. Even notwithstanding the negative fallout of this media in fanning religious and racial hatred, terrorism, and cyber crime,
social media is here to stay. Also, going forward, the traditional media shall not remain a counterpoise to social media
but rather complement it.