BJP has successfully demonstrated the power of social media through effective use during the recently concluded Lok Sabha election. Today, social media has enabled people to connect like never before. People can now express their opinion to a targeted group in an instant and can get a feedback to their opinion immediately. This has opened up huge avenues for this medium to connect, inform, educate and sell just about anything.
With technology opening up so many possibilities, has the current state government used this medium to reach out to the common man and to hear his problems? Other than the usual one way slogan messaging through WhatsApp, SMS etc., have the politicians made any serious attempt to connect with their constituency?
All through the Anna Hazare campaign of protest against the UPA, what stood out most was that people wanted to have a voice and be heard as they were angry at being marginalised by the ruling class. This learning has been completely missed out by the current government in Haryana that is still living with its head in the sand, assuming that it still remains popular with the people.
Social issues: a missed opportunity?
We have not seen a single campaign on any serious social issue that plagues Haryana like female feticide, inter caste marriage, female literacy, caste discrimination, unemployment, etc. Why is the government shy of using social media to its full potential? Is it lack of experience or is it worried that the social media could be a double edged sword and the same media might be used to expose the government's own shortcomings?
The youth of today is open to adopting newer technologies and mediums. There is anger among them and would like to have a government that is open to listening to them. They want their voices to be heard and social media can be a great way to give them this opportunity to voice their opinions. There is so much scope for the authorities to launch social reform initiatives and establish an immediate feedback mechanism to monitor its impact. Even welfare programs that have been launched can be monitored for its response, using social media.
Harnessing the power of social media
Take Twitter. If you follow the trends on Twitter, you will realise the tweets that have the maximum re-tweets are usually something that is sensational, an embarrassing mistake or quote by a celebrity or a breaking news event. In today's digital age it takes only one embarrassing mistake for the incident to go viral and within no time the world is aware of it.
Facebook has emerged as a powerful medium of connecting and communicating with a large targeted audience. The power of Facebook is being harnessed by corporates for launching products and services, political parties are using it to build and communicate with their voter base and social organisations are launching their campaigns using Facebook.
As an example, take the case of an NGO from South India that was recently established. They had no budget for advertising their name or services but needed to raise funds for the under privileged. They used social media to launch a campaign called The Tagging Drive . The campaign was about people donating their used bags, clothes etc., which was used by the NGO to sell through their under privileged person's network and the money generated was used by the NGO for the betterment of the under privileged. In a very short while, at no cost, they were able to collect 50,000 items and money raised through the sale of these items was over 426% of their earlier achievement.
WhatsApp is now widely used for messaging personal groups. The maximum forwards are jokes. But if used effectively, serious issues of interest to the common man can be raised, opinions influenced and responses received, within a very short period of time. The combined strength of social media is faster and more effective than the most successful newspaper, radio or TV, anywhere.
Present government living in the past?
Such is the power of social media. Imagine if the state government were to initiate a social reform campaign with people participation, the impact would be immediate and widespread. But this government is far removed and too busy figuring out their next political move for survival.
So, is the common man in Haryana even aware of social media? If so, then are they using it to effect? The answer is a yes to both questions. One look at the discussion raised and opinion sought on the latest movie released or the latest action in a cricket match involving India, will give you a glimpse of the widespread usage of social media, even in the rural areas of Haryana.
However, it's also true that the medium is yet to be understood and fully utilised by a wide cross section of people, especially men and women of the older generation in Haryana. They still use their mobiles for basic communication but have not experienced the power of social media. But those that have, are now irreversibly addicted to it! The state government has done very little to either use social media or educate the masses on the benefits of using social media.
Any government that believes in inclusive administration would have used this opportunity to reach out to all sections of society, especially the youth, but this government seems far removed from reality and is living in its own sand castle.
Our party has already adopted social and digital media in a big way and Naya Haryana will see a never before experience, where the people will directly communicate with a responsive government and your opinion will not only be heard but your suggestions will form part of policy making. Naya Haryana will be truly, your Haryana.