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Social media for social transformation

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Media has always been a significant pillar of society. Media doesn’t just report happenings, they build public opinion. This puts the media in a powerful position in a democracy and wherever there is power there is a chance of misuse of that power. In some countries, powerful media houses are said to have influenced election results by portraying people and events a certain way. In India too, some time back a connection between prominent people in the media and some politicians came to light.

The media space has changed a lot with the emergence of social media ( SM ). With SM, the public has eyes and ears everywhere. They are not limited to camera crews of a few TV channels. SM is a platform that showcases public opinion such that it cannot be easily doctored. It reflects the pulse of the society. Even conventional media channels also keep an eye on ongoing SM trends.

In recent past, we have seen so many top news stories originate from SM. Apart from highlighting issues that are socially relevant and crucial, SM has also exposed the disconnect between the government and the population. People are more aware of what our leaders are up to and exchange notes on how laws and policies affecting them are being made. Gone are the days when the government could pass laws behind closed doors without the public realizing it for months. Thanks to SM, discussion on political issues and implications is widespread and immediate.

Some politicians thrive on keeping communities apart and playing one’s interests over the other to secure their vote banks. As boundaries between people blur over SM, and they become more aware and better informed, this will no longer be easy to do. One needs to be more aware and alert while making speeches or statements. People see through any gimmick done with an ulterior motive and any sign of a narrow mindset comes in for severe criticism.

Like all powerful tools, SM should also be used with utmost care and responsibility failing which it can cause damage to the society. In the London riots of 2011, arsonists used SM widely to plan and execute their attacks. More recently, in India, SM was used to spread panic causing a massive exodus of people from North-eastern states living in Bangalore and Hyderabad to their native places.

However, with its potential to bring people together, SM also holds immense promise as a tool for social change. We have recently seen many successfully executed protests organized over SM that have made the right impact. Another application of SM could be to effectively utilize the vast diversity of human resource that India has which is still lying untapped. For instance, in Volunteer for a Better India, somebody announces a medical camp in a locality on a date and others join in. Likewise, somebody announces a tree plantation or a cleaning drive and people support the initiative with their time or resources.

We are clearly passing through a phase of transformation. India is a nation of youth who have a big role to play in that transformation. SM is a medium that connects them and gives them voice. This voice is growing louder. It is a welcome sign.

[Watch Sri Sri answer key questions from activists, actors, filmmakers, cricketers, other celebrities and general public on “What can we do to create a violence-free, stress-free society?” Hangout on Sri Sri’s Google+ page, January 26th, 8.30pm IST.]


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