This article was originally posted at Trak.in as a guest post.
I was born in a small town called Haldia, West Bengal. For my higher studies, I moved to Pune and once while travelling in the Azad Hind Express I met a young guy in early 2000. The guy was visiting Pune for the first time for a job and he told me that it was his first ever train journey. The young lad belonged to Manipur and he was in his early twenties. During the journey he shared quite a number of stories and one of them was about how he had to travel to the nearest town which was a six hours journey to watch television.
Fast forward today know body knew who was Mary Kom till the time she won a medal. Not only that I have observed that we still treat them as if they are coming from some different land. The present unrest has been prevailing for a long time and governments have been suppressing it ever since. So what is happening in the North East today is a culmination of this rage.
And as usual the rising egos in the state and central government and the ever growing distance between Delhi and North East have cost us dear. Common man is again suppressed in the hands of opportunists who have benefited from these riots. Seeing the growing tension, the state ministry has set the ball in the neighboring country’s court and our 60+ educated central ministers have placed the trigger once again on “Social Media.”
Why the Government wants to ban social media?
The intention to ban social media or monitoring social media has been an alternative with the government for some time now. Our ministers who were still using websites to show their presence, were caught napping during the Anna and IAC (India Against Corruption) movement last year. Part one of the movement which made Anna and his team clear winners was also due to the humongous presence IAC created on social media.
After the movement, we saw that the Government with the face of Kapil Sibal started playing a double role. In one avatar, it started creating it’s presence on social media and in its other avatar it started talking about monitoring social media. But will putting a ban on social media solve the problem?
Riots didn’t evolve with social networks coming into picture, it has been there before my birth. It will always be there even if we ban social media then emails, groups, mobile phones, etc. You can’t blame technology and turn a deaf ear to the root cause of the problem.
However, I also understand the virality feature of social media and it being a double-edged sword. In recent past, I have seen images being morphed by evil brains and creating tension on social networks. We do know that every technology in this world has its positives and negatives. The onus is on us - how we use a technology and then educate people about the two sides of the coin.
The government has miserably failed and has become the butt of jokes on social networks. One of the primary reasons is that instead of using social media to create a bridge between the people and the ministers, we have seen the presence is either blowing their own trumpet or ending up in parliament kind of fights.
The Prime Minister’s office had initially created a presence on Twitter and later on Facebook and YouTube. All the accounts are out there online to see what the government is doing. There is nothing wrong in this but social media is not only about talking about yourself but it is also about listening.
Not just the current government but most of the other parties’ social media presence is also namesake. Mamata Banerjee initially became famous because she wanted to monitor Facebook but later seeing the reactions of the people she joined Facebook. The response was good, numbers are there but can anyone complain about anything. I doubt anyone would like to risk doing it!
Is there any other alternative than putting a ban?
Whenever we have tried to control something without rational thinking, it has backfired. So instead of banning social media, the government can use it in its favor controlling the crisis of NE. The virality feature that our politicians are scared of can be used for killing rumors. Can’t the government get in touch with Facebook and Google India to find out ways to use social media in a better way? Can’t the Government start a social media campaign to “Save NE and Save India”?
Twitter is one of the tools that the government can use. A brilliant example is how Nirupama Rao, India’s Foreign Secretary used Twitter during the evacuation of Indians at the time of the Libyan crisis. The Twitter account was regularly updated for the public to know about the evacuation.
Social Media is not rocket science; it is about communicating with humans and for that you need to have the will to evolve and change. Banning social networks is not a solution to combat rumors but it is a half backed measure to cover the lid on the growing tensions.
It’s high time that our babus take a serious effort to understand social media and how can it be used effectively.