Recently, I attended a debate in Public TV, at Bangalore where a discussion came up on how the Social Media is growing in power and is able to influence decisions in physical space.
Some of the co-panelists highlighted how in the recent Rajya Sabha elections, BJP had to deny ticket to Mr Venkaiah Naidu from Karnataka quota because of the face book campaign. Similarly the recent happenings related to the resignation of a police official and her postings in Facebook also were in discussion all over Karnataka.
There is no doubt that today it is the Twitter and Facebook that is creating a flutter and trending news which often becomes the point for prime time debate on TV. From being a reactionary media to traditional media, Social media has emerged as the trend setter.
Intelligent media strategists have cleverly integrated the powers of the two media and brought out a synergic effect by openign a twitter handle to which viewers of a TV program can instantly respond so that an online Poll can be conducted even during an ongoing debate.
One of the reasons why Social media is increasingly becoming more powerful is the fact that traditional media is fast losing credibility due to its own preoccupations on commercial requirements such as TRP and their own political leanings.
Mr Arnab Goswami’s debates have become a subject of joke all around with Cyrus Broacha repeatedly making fun of the “Never, Ever” phrase and “Setting the screen on fire”. NDTV, CNN IBN and India Today have specific political leanings to Congress because their anchors are in some way or other related to politicians. The leaings of NewsX is yet to get crystalized though it seems to believe in the Arnab strategy of “Shouting to be heard”.
These political leanings also prevail in regional media particularly in Tamil Nadu where every political party has its declared TV partner. In Karnataka, it is a little more subtle but anchors some time betray their leanings when they pose leading questions to their participants or cut short the respondents when they tend to speak on uncomfortable lines.
It should also to be noted that many of the anchors feel that they can formulate public opinion not only by selecting biased debate participants of their choice but also by themselves taking a firm stand on one side of the issue and arguing with the participants. This tendency is very much evident when different political parties are represented in the panel. By this time viewers are aware that even if US senators rush to get autograph of Mr Modi after his speech, the Congress panelist will still say that the speech was meaning less and Modi has failed to deliver. There is therefore no credibility on such biased debatants some of whom come with the reputation of being foreign secretaries, advocates etc.
The effect of this biased conduct of the traditional journalists is one reason why the social media is gaining more and more popularity. The intelligent viewer of a TV program who spots the biased nature of reporting feels more comfortable to go to Twitter or Facebook and post his views or if he is more capable maintain his own blog. Since these postings find immediate expression in the Cyber space through search engines, they will have the satisfaction of having come out with their sincere opinion about the issue.
If the reporting by traditional media is fairer, many of these social media activists find it unnecessary to spend time and energy in posting their views. Hence the credit for the growing power of the Social media should be given to the traditional media and the anchors of TV channels who think that they are kings and control the minds of people.
In the process of such social media expression we find that some times postings made under an emotionally disturbed and angry mood often create problems due to lack of moderation by a second person. This leads to the charge that Social media is irresponsible and defamatory.
In order therefore to ensure that Social media remains responsible, it is necessary that we device means to educate the social media participants to maintain some dignity in their expressions and introduce moderation wherever necessary.
Such moderation is today essential as otherwise social media postings as well as postings in WhatsApp and other messenger services could cause legal issues which could be very damaging.
I urge all Netizens therefore to device their own methods to control their postings and always retain the power to remove postings if necessary. It is also better if Netizens form themselves into self help groups so that comments can be moderated at the group level.