Social Media and its effect on our Political Perceptions


This article discusses the effect of social media on our political life. This question has indeed become significant in the current context considering how political parties and groups can use social media to shape our minds in a particular manner. In this context, it is important to understand the nature of this effect.

The effect of social media has been so pervasive in the current decade that not a single aspect of our lives has been left untouched by this new technology. There have been wide-ranging changes, the effects of which are radically changing almost everything that we see around us. In such a case it is idiotic to assume that our political lives will be left untouched. There has been good as well as bad even though it might sometimes seem that the bad has outweighed the good.

A medium for the people

Firstly on the positive side, social media has democratized the production of information. What I mean when I say this is that users are themselves able to create content instead of simply consuming content. For example, whenever we post something on Facebook or tweet something on Twitter, we are essentially producing content. This user-created content has helped in the raising of issues that the mainstream media has been unwilling or unable to raise, either due to their limited reach or because of the control exerted upon them by political bigwigs.

A good example might be the present case in the Kashmir valley where there has been a shameful curtailment of civil liberties over nearly two months. The stories of the survivors who have somehow escaped from the valley are mostly broadcast over social media as mainstream media has proved powerless in front of the iron hand of the ruling party. There are more routine cases as well, for example, the recent case of the CA exams which was raised mainly on Twitter. As soon as the issue gained momentum, mainstream media outlets like NDTV and even the senior leader of the Congress party, Mr. Rahul Gandhi gave support to the issue.

Social media in this sense gives ordinary people like you and me to voice out our problems in front of the world. A big newspaper or a leading TV channel may not be willing to raise certain issues that can be raised if the power is in the hands of the general public. This ensures that politics and political discussion takes place around the actual issues affecting the masses and not some concocted agenda and vested interests. However, we need to remember that content creation is still dominated by only a small number of highly active participants while the majority remain passive consumers of news (This is according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2013. Although it is a 6-year-old report, common sense tells us that the trends haven't changed too much).

The rising menace

More worrying has been the spread of fake news and false and unverified information on social media platforms. Since most people only consume news these false pieces of information end up creating long term effects on the perception of people towards important issues. For example, it is widely accepted that fake news influenced the US Presidential elections of 2016 (although the exact effect of it is debatable). The rising waves of false information have arrived in India as well. Just look at the various bits and pieces of information being circulated about Jawaharlal Nehru. Mr. Tharoor of the Congress party recently put up pictures of Nehru's USSR visit claiming these pictures to be from his US visit of the 1950s while the people on the other side have been super active when it comes to defaming Nehru using doctored photos and twisted facts.

In recent times there has been the emergence of populist right-wing governments almost all across the world, from Washington DC to Vienna to New Delhi. There is a strong correlation between the increasing grip of social media on people's lives and the rise of these parties. Techniques that were earlier used to sell products are now used to promote politicians. This has led to innovative techniques of campaigning especially in the Indian elections of 2014. Yet there have also been immoral practices that have gone on to reduce the trust of ordinary people upon the social media platforms. The infamous case of Cambridge Analytica amply proves how vulnerable we are when it comes to falling into the unscrupulous politician's rapidly expanding net. A relatively insignificant leader with the aid of data and persuasive promotion tools has the potential to rise to the upper echelons of power in this strange age of technology.

The discussion in the last few paragraphs has been mostly about the negatives. But there are ample positives as well as has already been mentioned in the initial portion of the paragraph. But it is important to remember that social media can affect our perceptions in unknown and dangerous ways, be it in a developing country like ours or the USA.


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Comments

Author: Chitra08 Oct 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 5

Social media is definitely affecting the political views of many people. There are people who spread false information and another set of people who blindly believe it rather than checking the authenticity of it. All the political parties and their followers are using social media platforms to boost their performance and to blame the opposition parties. We the public are just believing it based on these false allegations and wrong news being spread. Be it any party each one of us believes in, do not completely support what they are doing. Find the good and bad about each party including the one you are following and accordingly make a decision or opinion. Politicians are playing for their benefit, we shouldn't be a victim of it.

Author: Umesh09 Oct 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

Social media has now become a blackboard for all the social and political activities in our country. Everything is written there before we wake up in the morning and take the smartphone in our hand. Unfortunately, there is no control on the information in the social media and we get all sort of news. Biased and fake news will be more than genuine news. So, there is a big threat now that social media is a misleading place. It is telling us many things but we are not able to decipher their correctness and authenticity. It is definitely an alarming trend but so far there does not seem a solution for this evil.

People are taking benefits out of it by popularising all the information that will make the voters sympathetic to them and followers will also increase with time. So today the fight for political power acquisition is in the social media and not on the streets.

Author: Wilson Mathew30 Oct 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 4

Social media has been a tremendous influence on human life. Its ubiquity in all areas is sometimes disturbing.

Now let's see how social media has become so popular in the political arena. An election is of paramount importance in politics. Every political party is using social media to present its manifesto and to promote the good work they have done in that constituency. They apply all tactics to convince the voters of the need to vote for their candidate. It's all good stuff.

But it is unacceptable to use this medium to defame a candidate, to blame them for what they don't have, and to establish what they have not done. Similarly, they may list things that are not affiliated with or through them to promote the candidate. This too cannot be accepted because it misleads the public.

Social media has taken over many of the information that the printing and visual media is reluctant to provide, thereby playing a huge role in educating the public. But the aforementioned counterfeit coins are tarnishing the reputation of these social media outlets.



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