The other day, me and some of my friends contacted each other on a social media message service. Within 5 minutes, all the 8 members of the group had information about moms angry about jobs, dads going to vacation, relationship updates, free unwarranted wisdom, new wedding invitations, the local politician rallies, a dead dog on street and new ways to procrastinate work in office. Same night, I logged into Twitter. Around midnight, tweets started flooding into my timeline about mild earthquake shocks in Delhi. I checked news channels, and there were no such reports. I thought it was rumor as I too was in Delhi and didn’t feel anything. But half an hour later when I checked the news channel sites again, I came to know that I was wrong and news channels were too slow to report shocks.
Social media has changed the rules of traditional one to one connection communication ways with its one to many and many to many connections technology. The secrecy of affairs is outdated, the public life and show off is everything. The mailing services are limited to official uses and serve more as proof of actions ordered and response sought. Social anonymity is new cool thing to do. It serves few things such as unrestricted flow of ideas from mind to electronic signals on world wide web which many people wouldn’t do if their true identity is revealed. Getting recognized for your ideas and craziness is new status symbol in the form of Facebook likes and twitter retweets. Social gaming is new hangout where unknown people meet and try to defeat others to make them friends in return. Social media has created an alternate universe within our real world, and it is as real as a mirage in heated desert. It might not be truly what you see, but it is real no doubt.
To use social media for inspiring youth to vote in upcoming elections is a subset of efforts taken to make youth aware about the politics of country through social media. And in a way, the social media is already doing its bit. Twitter is filled with political views of people, who express them with their name or some anonymous fake account; in both cases ,ideas are welcomed. Facebook already has blog pages of every political outfit in our country and their day to day agenda feeds are drained into our timeline.
The use of social media to drive a movement is evident from the post 16 Dec Delhi Rape protests, the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement. Apart from these, there are many local movements like blood donation drives, donation to cancer patients, signature campaigns for a cause, search of missing people are run successfully in social media platforms on day to day basis. Power social media can be understood from the fact that many news channels report issues based on social media reporting and sometimes have specific shows on social media reports. This is evident from Kishtwar riot reporting that started from social media and then mainstream media picked it up. Social media beats mainstream media in terms of live reporting of incidents.
What can be done to bring youth out to vote ?
1.Create Voter Id Drives
Off lately we have been tolerating those “Share Sai baba photo for good luck “on our Facebook timelines. To my utter amazement, there are always thousands of people who share that.
If Sai Baba can do it, then so can democracy. A drive can be run on various social media platforms to inspire people create their voter Id cards. That’s the first step towards going to vote. There is no reason for us to believe that those who proactively get their voter cards created will not vote in actual. Incentives should be announced for those who create voter Id such as those badge or trophies that people get when they play games online.
2. Integrate SMS services to Social Media
I always thought of how I can use social media platforms when I am actually not connected to Internet on my mobile. The social media platforms on mobile should be integrated to SMS, so that people who don’t have Internet on mobile (they are in majority by the way) could also use social media. This is just to widen the reach of social media to greater extend. This can certainly enable social media to reach to rural users who don’t have much access to Internet infrastructure. Inspiration can be drawn from SMS campaigns that were run while anti-corruption movement.
3. Political Awareness
The very first step is to make youth aware about politics in India. The awareness factor can be trendify using mobile social media, and if it reaches the style and status value to be aware of things, little shall be left to draw people out of homes to polling booths. Information about agenda of political parties, candidates, local leadership, debate on recent politics etc can be a part of political awareness campaigns run on social media. We can have ratings for users like “Awareness quotient” to start the trend and so on.
4. Indirect Marketing
Though indirect marketing is the concept implemented by many chit-fund companies, self help groups and sometimes bigger corporate like Amway and Avon, the concept can be used to spread social awareness and to draw youth towards voting. In this ,people are asked to pursue more new people to join the movement, and in return they get incentives. This is human nuclear fission. Campaigns can be run on social media to inspire people to pursue people in their influence circle to go out and vote. The more people someone pursue, the better his incentive would be. He advantage with such kind of strategy is that we can also reach people out of social media circles.
5. Integration of Mainstream media with social media.
Everyone wants to be seen at television, or at least wants his name to flash once on TV. It doesn’t matter how popular the TV channel is, he simply cherishes his name being flashed on a TV channel. Any campaign or movement that is being run mobile social media should be integrated with mainstream media such as TV, newspapers and Radio. In fact Radio has been experimenting with this for quite some time now. There are shows run on Radio where the audience get to participate on shows through live SMS or social media portals of radio presenters. The radio experiment has been very successful. This should be expanded to TV and print media too.
6.Oath taking signature campaigns
This may not work as an incentive but like the real world where people hold moral binding to their words by swearing, promising or giving signatures on legal documents, an online counterpart to these can be run on social media using mobile. The campaigns may be targeted to ask the users to take an oath and sign on it virtually that they would fulfill their duty of casting vote as a citizen. Signature campaigns have been pretty successful during various movements, and this time, we should use it for democracy.