The 2016 Tamil Nadu elections, Brexit Vote, American Presidential elections and finally Sasikala becoming Tamil Nadu’s chief minister. One thing that is common between all of them is that they went against the popular belief on social media. The highest estimate of the number of facebook accounts in India is 125 million. That’s only 10% of the total Indian population. Yet we the general public tend to make bold political predictions and define our reality based on what we see on Facebook , Whatsapp and other forms of mainstream social media.
I remember in December 2015 when Chennai encountered the biggest disaster to have hit the city, the people rose up to the occasion and pulled the city from the hands of destruction and put it on the path of relief and rehabilitation. There was huge disappointment and anger on mainstream social media towards the then honourable chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s way of handling the disaster. Newsfeeds were filled with hate posts, posts demanding her resignation and posts promising to vote her out the next elections. Cut to may 2016, honourable chief minister Amma J Jayalalithaa swears in for the second consecutive term as CM and for the first time in a while the ruling party succeeded in the battle against anti incumbency.
I remember before the US elections, my newsfeed was filled with hate posts against Donald Trump. I would see 100 posts against trump and 50 posts saying Bernie should have contested and 1 post that said Trump is not that bad which by the way was by trump himself. I’m sure an average American’s newsfeed would have looked similar. Cut to Jan 2017, he is the POTUS. There are many other examples as well.
As long as the information is spicy and sensational, we do not care about the source. We do not even care to think rationally for a minute to decide if it can be the whole picture or not. We do not care if the news is vetted and if the source is accountable. The best example I can think of is how almost half of us believed there would be satellite chips embedded in the 2000 rupee note. I saw at least 3 forwards on Whatsapp everyday . One listing out all these futuristic features, One with justification as to how these features will help the economy and One explaining in detail how these chips work. I really want to know who these creative minds are that came up with all this. If bollywood scriptwriters had 10% of the creativity these guys have, We will be making movies that will make Inception and Martian look like Humshakals and Dilwale .
We accuse the national media of focusing only on the capital and on the north while comfortably ignoring South India. Well that makes us the biggest hypocrites on this planet. They are at least considering half of India while presenting their opinions. We define our reality based on the opinion of 10% of the population.
However the sad truth is that the fourth estate which is supposed to be the most credible source of information does not provide information any more. It provides sensation. So we are not at blame if we do not trust these channels. However we should not be stupid to trust facebook polls and twitter polls over these. We need to find out genuine news bodies. We need to do research from our end. We need to study the trend and behaviour of politics and politicians over a period of time. That is when we can even think of putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Revolutions aren’t brought out on social media. Governments do not fall because of social media posts. Change cannot be brought through social media alone. The Jallikattu protests are proof of my concept. People came out in huge numbers in support of Jallikattu. Of course there was tremendous support on social media as well. However the protests were successful because the sentiments of Jallikattu actually reached out to people’s hearts and did not just stop at their mobile laptop and TV screens. Even after so much hate and so many online trolls, Trump won because he appealed to most real Americans and not just the ones online. Modi won the 2014 elections because of his speeches,rallies and his interviews, well also because of Rahul Gandhi’s speeches, rallies and interviews but not because of his facebook posts.
So to all the leaders who think they can win elections based on social media interactions, good PR and social image, you can’t. Its high time people also realise social media is just a mirage. The lake is somewhere near but its a lot more deeper.
To all those people who are furious about Sasikala becoming chief minister, we had the chance to actually vote responsibly and make a difference. We chose to sit at home, eat curd rice and enjoy the holiday. Of course we did not foresee such a situation would arise but again, you only reap what you sow.
Next time we form an opinion or make predictions, lets not be ignorant and let’s consider all sides of the story before we make a decision.
Thank you for bearing with me for so long. Any suggestions/comments will be deeply appreciated.
K. Phani Krishna