The last decade has seen the Internet grow as a popular medium for sharing information in the country.
In 2014, social media has emerged as a forum for political discussions and reactions.
Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have provided fine ways to engage the youth in politics and elections. Communication via social media brings the youth and political parties closer to their potential voters.
It allows politicians to communicate faster and reach citizens in a more targetted manner. Besides they can gauge feedback, have conversations and engage in debates alongside offline events.
Social media and apps had a huge impact in the 2014 elections
And political parties in the country have left no stone unturned to grab the attention of the youth this election season. Messages posted to personal networks are multiplied when shared, which allow new audiences to be reached.
The total expenditure on campaigns on digital platforms is reported to be a whopping Rs 400-500 crore, with more spent on online campaigns, advertisements and publicity by political parties. The target audiences have been the youth and the first-time voters. Naturally, apart from popular blogs, the search engine Google and social networking portals like Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook have seen their India revenue soaring this election season.
Voice of young India
Alok Thakkar, from Pune portal Cityshor says, “Traditional media did have an impact on me. WhatsApp and Facebook were significant during the elections with pictures, slogans, jokes and memes trending. The incident of faulty voting machines at one centre spread like wild fire on the day of voting. Sometimes, I felt that there was an immature handling of social media, though.”
PR executive Devendra Birajdar admits that social media made him more aware. “It made me aware of my rights and the ongoing situation in the country, besides inspiring me to rise up and practice what is good for my country and myself. A few times it felt like we were voting for a selfie but its made a huge impact on the youth. We would discuss on Facebook often. Jaago Re and Vote Pune Vote were popular online portals.”
Amit Kamlapure, a business analyst for an IT firm, observes, “Social media is main stream for people around me. They tend to believe what they read on forums rather than what they get to see on news channels. I voted for a party out of no choice and Nota is of no use, I believe. Social media seems like the main source of info these days. I tend to visit URL links that are shared over social media.”
Yash Paranjpe, co-owner of Coffee & Bread café says, “Social media had a huge impact on us during the 2014 elections. The way BJP did their campaigning was impactful. Be it jokes, meme, quotes or pictures, Narendra Modi was in practically all our discussions. WhatsApp was the biggest platform for us for discussions or sharing pictures. My friends checked out Twitter besides Facebook pages which stated facts about politicians. It helped us know the politicians in a better way.” Narendra Modi also made his presence felt on Android phones with a mobile game called Modi available on Google Play store.
Even AAP, Congress had their public domains which connected with the youth. There is no doubt that the Internet has and will continue to influence the thought on political parties, candidates, campaigns, voters and outcomes of elections in the coming years.