Social Media World Turns Into Vicious Political Battlegrounds

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The recent, untimely and tragic death of a Minister’s wife brought the spotlight back into the ever-growing world of social media. I would not get into the details of what really happened in her case, as the facts are well-known among the denizens of our shrinking planet, more so among those people who are active on social media platforms.

Social Media

But, it can be safely said that in her case, somehow and somewhere, not only the thin line between the Private circle and the Public world was crossed, but also the thick lines among the Social Media and the Traditional Media, besides the Virtual world and the Real World were blurred, almost completely and inadvertently.

# Political battles being fought on Twitter and Facebook

As the countdown to the 2014 General Election has begun, the vicious political battles have been extended to the social media world.

In a run-up to the D-day of voting, almost all the political parties are running high decibel campaigns to occupy the mind and hearts of the voters. At the movement, on the social media platforms, one can experience and witness the ongoing triangular political contests.

In any healthy democracy, the greater public involvement on the various issues confronting the common people is a welcome and good signs. Gone are the days, when can remain apathetic, isolated, detached and mute bystander on the political and social issues.

This constant bombardment of the information does force people to choose a side or sides. In case, one bravely picks to swim against the prevailing currents and opt for an option (s), then one should be prepared for the harsh criticism and even public lynching, where the unkind words are used as knives and daggers, to inflict severe damages on that person. It’s like, being caught in a cross-fire, wherein the well-placed snipers take aim at you and shoot you to injure, if not to kill.

It seems that the idea behind such aggressive act is to muzzle one’s voices. And mind you, all these verbal attacks are done in the name of our constitutional Right to Freedom of Speech. But this isn’t good our democracy, especially name-calling, abuse and personal attacks of most nasty nature. The world of social media is getting murkier, with this kind irresponsible behaviour on the part of good number of netizens.

# Paid and Unpaid Mob is trying to influence the Twitter Trends

I joined Twitter, couple of years ago; when I finished writing my maiden novel. At that time I believed that I might need this communication tool, in the days to come. For a blogger like me, who hates typing, the limit of 140 characters is god-send, it saves time and energy. It’s still a very good communication platform to share and communicate one’s ideas with the world; but for the negativities floating around.

In the run up to the 2014 election, the character of Twitter’s user-profiles started to change dramatically.

For many of the ambitious politicians (although not all politicians) on Twitter, it’s all about the getting “Followers” and it does not really matter, if their followers’ profiles are fakes. At the end of the day, it’s about the “followers’ number”, the “retweets”, the “favourites” and the “trends”. The well-organized troops debuted.

Quite a few, including investigative journalists of the Traditional –media have suggested that the powerful professional teams of call-centres and software engineers are behind the irresponsible trolls of tweets. The political parties attracted and recruited many foot-soldiers (many faceless and nameless) on twitters, who joined hands to pursue their common stated goal of their political masters.

It is quite apparent that most of these die-hard supporters of political parties as well as their hired professionals are asked to firmly deal with any voices of queries and dissent and if possible then they should be nipped on the bud by aggressive posturing.

The increasing instances of “trolls” made its appearance on the twitter time-line. The online stalking and the verbal abuse on public platform became common place. Obscene jokes, below the belt barbs and the personal attacks have become order of the day. Harsh, uncouth, uncivilized, rude, impolite, cruel, unsympathetic, inhuman, et al; all these and many more similar sounding words became the new buzzwords in the world of twitter India. The lines have been crossed. The civility and courtesy are dead. Now, it’s all about anger and manifestation of same.

Have you ever noticed the mob-like mentality to influence the twitter #trend artificially? If not, then do log into twitter and find out about the ongoing twitter campaign launched by numerous (mostly faceless) people for their controversial God-man. And in case, one delves deep into the world of twitter #trend, they would find many more such instances.

# Paid and Unpaid Mob is trying to artificially shore up the number of likes on Facebook

The fact that the year 2014 is a General Election Year, it does not really help, especially if you are someone politically important and make a mistake publicly. It gives almost voyeuristic pleasures to many, the social-media users, to put such people under “microscope”, and then try to “dissect” and “analyze” them, publicly; often using filthiest of crude remarks against the person (s) concerned. God forbid, if one slips on the high-standards propounded by our highly touchy and the moralistic brigade, then you have had it. Nobody and I repeat nobody can really save you, from the public execution. Welcome to the new and brave world of mob-justice, where the harsh words are new weapons of character assassinations. This is the world that we are living in, on social media.

We do live in interesting political times. The issues discussed above on Twitter can also be witnessed on the Facebook. Almost akin to Twitter, here too political figures chase “Likes” and it does not really matter where these likes originate from and whom does it belong to, as long as the number of Likes swell on their pages. Also the similar kind of professional teams are hired by some of the ambitious politicians (although not all politicians) to swell the number of “likes” on their Facebook pages and to attack their political opponents on this platform.

On Facebook, many a times the level of public discourse hits rock-bottom, as they do not have the limitation of 140 characters like Twitter. These are only couple of the issues that I have touched upon, there are much more filth and muck, swimming below the surface.

# Where Social Media in India are going wrong?

The advent of social media was supposed to bring down the high walls of little or no communications, between the people who ruled and the people who are ruled. The rule of the game on social media is all about “engagement” and / or the “two-way communications”. Ironically, this isn’t really happening with the majority of political communications. The political communication on social media is still following the traditional top-down and the one-way communication approaches of the past.

Maybe, these abusive posts on social media reflect the dominating mindset of our political class, the notorious god men and not to forget the good old affluent educated class, who login into these social media sites, using their technological gadgets like desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc. These are new and the modern-day weapons of character-destructions on the mass scale.

# Can political filth on social media be controlled?

Maybe our country should not allow the wide-spread prevalence of fake profiles on these social media platforms. It could be a right way to go about the bringing some kind of semblance in the world of social media. Besides, the prevalent technology and the laws must be used properly to filter out such miscreants operating and trying to dominate the social media sites. Even the long arms of laws should be used to identify the wrongdoer and taking appropriate action on them. It’s time to clean up. Facebook and Twitter are excellent communication tools to be used, they shouldn’t be misused. Or else the chaos that presently reigns on these social media platforms sends a wrong message about us. Not only it may reflect badly on all the netizens but also it may inflict irreparable damages on our democracy, which inadvertently is metamorphosing into Mobocracy. And this is really worrisome. It’s time to reflect, where our democracy is really headed into?


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Sameer Bhagat

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Social-Activist. Author of SALVAGING ADIDWEEP.


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