May The Rebel In Us Never Die: The Power Of Social Media In Political Revolution

Posted on February 21, 2014 in Media

By Simren Singh: 

Revolution is an idea enthralling enough to seduce the mind to explore the unchartered terrains of change and transformation. After all, who doesn’t want change? I wouldn’t say that gone are the days when masses were evoked with extensive speeches coated with satire, rhetoric, rage, emotion and patriotism. That still happens; however a new trend has emerged of late wherein popular social networking sites are invoked to appeal a newer kind of audience, a generation that is smart, technologically driven, aware yet critical and beseeches to be informed on matters that concerns them and larger humanity. Arab Spring was a unique political breakthrough of its kind, the effect of which (although not so similar in nature) can now be seen in South Asia as well.

social media

In what appears to be a remarkable hit, dissemination of political information and opinion via social media be it Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs or other social networking sites, has become a rampant phenomenon in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Nepal and has captivated the imagination of all alike. Whether it is Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi in India or Imran Khan or Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Pakistan, all are becoming technologically adept and catching up with the pace of the modern ‘janta’ that has access to internet through mobiles or otherwise, in an unprecedented manner. While some like the junior Zardari use the scheme to attack religious extremism in their land, on the other hand, the Aam Aadmi Party used it to seek final support for Kejriwal’s coronation in the capital recently. This unconventional wave has set in now. It wouldn’t be naive to say that these politicians are smart enough to use social media as a platform to cater to the wants of viewers and voters that seek answers from them on a daily basis. Facebook serves as a dais to propagate cheap and easy campaigning with assured fan following of the voters(gauged by the number of ‘likes’ a page/post gets) while Twitter has become an intense battle field of ever proliferating war of words with the ‘gen-next’ closely watching!

In Sri Lanka for instance, J. Jegannathan notes that social networking sites have become “weapons of mass dissemination (WMD)” and that “social media has been shaping the political discourse of Sri Lanka since the end of the war…. It helped Tamils to articulate their political grievances and assert their rights of self-determination without censorship and state prosecution.” So is the case in Nepal as according to Surath Giri, “social media sites are playing an increasingly central role in co-ordinating demonstrations and civic action, with frequent online discussions on violence against women and demand for justice in general.”

Although, no mass political uprising has taken place in South Asia so far, however, the speed with the zone of social media is becoming an important driver of political communication and social change is definitely intriguing to note. In no time, images and videos go viral and have a cascading effect on the social and political psyche of the public. This however, has its own caveats as at times dissemination of fraudulent videos (as in the case of Muzaffarnagar, last September) can spark outrage and violence. Nevertheless, responses from jittered politicians in the last two years that forced a few journalists and a cartoonist in India to disable their social media accounts have nothing but strengthened our belief in the power of change and in the social media as an enabler of change.

No more do the youth stand at a distance and watch the wrong being done. No longer does the youth wait for change to happen. Even as I write this, the seeds of change are being sown. We write, we read, we click, we like, we share, we comment and we connect. That’s the power we all possess and that’s the revolution that we all are becoming a part of whether consciously or otherwise. It is in this light that I hope that someday we also use the power of social media to expand the scope of change beyond national boundaries to join hands with the “other” to make the world a just, peaceful and safer place to live in.

Till then, may the ink of our thoughts never dry; may the rebel in us never die! Stay connected; the change shall ‘follow’!