It all started gaining proportion with continuous onslaught of protests against President Bush’s war with Iraq under the pretext of finding Weapons of Mass Destructions. Apart from taking to the street, several individuals got vociferous with their protests in the social media space. Twitter, blogs, networking sites all become mediums of protest. Unfortunately the republicans didn’t believe in building their presence online (which become more evident during the election campaign between Obama and Mc Cain) and hence couldn’t gauge the mood of the people which costed them the election!
Let’s take the Iran Elections. A country that doesn’t support freedom of speech and which finds it fair to order 100 lashes to anyone reporting against the ruling party. In a state like that too, Iranians openly protested about how elections were conducted in an unfair manner in various parts of their country. Iran elections was a trending topic for a very long period on Twitter. For the first time the world got an inside perspective of an election process in Iran! The tweets and messages were bold, provocative and most times anti-establishment. This was unheard off for a country like Iran. What was surprising was that People commented through their real online profiles. They didn’t mince words.
Move to closer home. The current war of words between Shiv Sena (a local party which enjoys a reputation of hooliganism most times) and various other parties of the country. Shiv Sena insisted that Mumbai belonged only to Maharashtrians (local people from the state of Maharashtra). This was countered by all stating that Mumbai belonged to all Indians and that everyone was free to stay wherever they wished. The protest was more evident on again social media. Apart from blog posts and status updates on networking sites, twitter was used extensively. Several Bollywood stars started trending their thoughts with #MyNameIsIndia saying that Mumbai belongs to all.
The hash tag was in conjunction with the forthcoming film of Shah Rukh Khan (a popular Bollywood star) that was titled My Name Is Khan. SRK and Shiv Sena too had got into a verbal dispute to the extent that Sena refused to let his film get released in Mumbai. The support for SRK grew immensely online but not on ground. The irony, however, was that none of their stars protested on other media like print or television. A leading television critic observed that several news channels contacted those bollywood stars as their panelists to talk pro SRK but they all declined. Even the press journalists haven’t been able to get direct quotes from anyone who would criticize the Sena’s veiled threat openly.
This behavior leads me to question what happens to us as individuals when we are using social media platforms to express our opinions. Why is it that, barring few exceptions, the individuals becomes politically correct when confronted on the Television show or leading Daily but fiercely inflammatory on social media platforms. Reading some of the tweets against Shiv Sena ( a party that has fierce grip over the city and its people) astonished me about this bold and gutsy attitude. The nature of tweets were earlier seen only during anti-national activity!
Anonymity? Hardly. Most individuals have an updated twitter or facebook profile clearly revealing out their identity. Most of them have pictures with their real names and even links to their blogs or websites.
Misinterpretation by mediaperson? Not really. Most television shows follow a debate format so there is no room for misinterpretation. The individual can express his or her point of view just as clearly as on social media.
Safety in numbers? Maybe. The individual’s tweets or updates are one more in the sea of protest so the chances of being singled out are drastically reduced. As a panelist on TV, you are isolated and conspicuous and more likely to face ire of individual or body whom you are commenting against.
Tweet not as impactful as TV Remark? Possible. A remark on TV has more visual impact or lasting impression that a series of tweets or updates! Again raising the case of being easily identified and singled out!
These are just few of the reasons that I could delve on. I am sure that there could be many more – after all the human mind plays up its own share of permutations and combinations and doesn’t always take the logical route. Whatever it is, it sure has provided an outlet to all to pour out their concerns, feelings and above all else their opinions!