Rev­o­lu­tion On­line

So­cial me­dia has be­come a voice of the new gen­er­a­tion but will it be enough to usher in so­cial and po­lit­i­cal change?

Southasia - - Social - By Deen Sheikh

We live in an age of so­cial me­dia, the ef­fects of which can be seen in the world around us. So­cial me­dia tools such as Twit­ter, YouTube and Face­book have be­come a part of our daily lives. In an era of tech­nol­ogy, so­cial me­dia web­sites have al­tered the way mil­lions of users in­ter­act with a global and an in­creas­ingly con­nect- ed world. Face­book in par­tic­u­lar has been a game changer, record­ing over a bil­lion users world­wide. Given the success of such por­tals and their reach to young users around the world, the cor­po­rate sec­tor has also re­cently warmed up to the phe­nom­e­non, us­ing it as an ef­fec­tive medium for mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions. The real power of so­cial me­dia, how­ever, lies in its abil­ity to al­low users to share, cre­ate and broad­cast con­tent to a wider au­di­ence and achieve mass pen­e­tra­tion.

The youth, in par­tic­u­lar, has been a ma­jor driv­ing force that has fu­elled and ac­cel­er­ated the growth of so­cial me­dia around the world. Let us not for­get that it was a young en­tre­pre­neur, Mark Zucker­burg, an un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent at Har­vard Univer­sity, who founded Face­book, open­ing the doors to a new era of con­nec­tiv­ity. The ar­rival of smart­phones has fur­ther ac­cel­er­ated the use of so­cial me­dia, al­low­ing users in­stant ac­cess to the In­ter­net. Be­sides so­cial net­work­ing web­sites, like Twit­ter and Face­book, blog­ging web­sites such as Word Press and Blog­ger have also pro­vided in­di­vid­u­als with a plat­form to voice their opin­ions, giv­ing rise to cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism in many parts of the de­vel­op­ing world. Blogs are also a very po­tent tool if used prop­erly in any so­cial me­dia or in­ter­net based cam­paign.

Of late, so­cial me­dia has played a de­ci­sive role in broad­cast­ing and, in some cases, in­flu­enc­ing world events. In 2011, when a tsunami wreaked havoc in Ja­pan, Ja­panese ci­ti­zens shared im­ages of the ex­tent of the dis­as­ter in real time, over so­cial me­dia. Po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tions have also be­come some­what of a norm, en­gi­neered by so­cial me­dia users. Some an­a­lysts ar­gue that the 2011 Arab Spring was a re­sult of so­cial me­dia users vent­ing their frus­tra­tion over the state of af­fairs in Egypt and Tu­nisia. For many, the por­tal worked as a plat­form for dis­sent, con­gre­ga­tion and later col­lec­tive plan­ning. The strat­egy, which led to phe­nom­e­nal changes un­der an au­to­cratic regime, trig­gered a se­ries of up­ris­ings through­out the Mid­dle East. Face­book and Twit­ter made it pos­si­ble to mo­bi­lize tens of thou­sands of sup­port­ers who ral­lied for demo­cratic and po­lit­i­cal re­forms in the coun­try. Sim­i­larly, YouTube ac­tivists in the re­gion were able to broad­cast videos of the rev­o­lu­tion as it hap­pened and gain the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity while the gov­ern­ments made ev­ery pos­si­ble move to sup­press the demon­stra­tors.

Pak­istan has also ex­pe­ri­enced the power of so­cial me­dia, whether it is in the form of cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism or amass­ing youth for a po­lit­i­cal rally. In De­cem­ber 2011, crick­eter­turned-politi­cian, Im­ran Khan and his po­lit­i­cal party, Pak­istan Tehreeke-In­saf (PTI), or­ga­nized mam­moth po­lit­i­cal ral­lies in the cities of La­hore and Karachi, with at­ten­dance ex­ceed­ing mil­lions. Prior to hold­ing ral­lies, mem­bers of PTI, along with its youth wing, ac­tively used so­cial me­dia to com­mu­ni­cate the party mes­sage to the masses and mo­bi­lize sup­port­ers. The so­cial me­dia cam­paign turned out to be a mega success and con­vinced other politi­cians and diplo­mats to dab­ble in new me­dia.

In many in­stances, so­cial me­dia has played a vi­tal role in gen­er­at­ing pub­lic at­ten­tion and aware­ness to­wards a cause. This past De­cem­ber, a young stu­dent in Karachi, was shot by mem­bers of a very in­flu­en­tial and po­lit­i­cally con­nected fam­ily. Friends and fam­ily of the vic­tim took up their fight on so­cial me­dia. The out­let not only cre­ated aware­ness but also gen­er­ated a pub­lic out­cry for jus­tice. Scores of young peo­ple or­ga­nized peace­ful marches and served as a pres­sure group for the government to take ac­tion against the per­pe­tra­tors. It was per­haps the in­ter­est and con­cern gen­er­ated through so­cial me­dia, and later high­lighted through broad­cast me­dia, that forced law en­force­ment agen­cies to launch an of­fen­sive and en­sure the crim­i­nals were brought to jus­tice, prevent­ing this tragedy from be­com­ing yet an­other lost statis­tic.

So­cial me­dia has rev­o­lu­tion­ized jour­nal­ism and cit­i­zen ac­tivism in Pak­istan. Apart from this, it also serves as a re­li­able and ef­fec­tive tool of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. For ex­am­ple, when civil un­rest en­gulfs Karachi, ac­tivists on so­cial me­dia por­tals in­form the pub­lic through news alerts about city routes, and other first-hand in­for­ma­tion. Pol­icy mak­ers also re­al­ize the abil­ity of so­cial me­dia in shap­ing and in­flu­enc­ing pub­lic opin­ion. It is likely that in the coming days, Pak­istan will wit­ness a growth in so­cial me­dia. Only time will tell whether so­cial me­dia is a fad or a re­al­ity that is here to stay.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.