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Shaping Societies with Modern Media

Social media and digital platforms have sewed themselves into the fabric of Indian society and politics in the digital age. These virtual platforms have changed the way people communicate, share information, and even participate in politics. In this article, we’ll look at the enormous impact these platforms have had on our lives, touching on a variety of issues that have shaped our lives as well as politics. Let’s get started, shall we?

A Lawyer’s Take: To provide an in-depth look into what young people think about this topic, we had a conversation with a Law Student named Mansi Priya, who is also a part of TTL. When questioned if existing laws effectively address the quick changes and problems provided by social media in the political world, Mansi Priya responded, “The laws are decades old and it’s hard to keep up with the rapid changes in the society. Laws have to be dynamic and must evolve to meet the needs of the society.” Furthermore, we also asked whether she is happy with the way the government and the people use social media platforms like X and Instagram for important matters, she said to TTL, “The laws need to change and are changing. A bill to pass new criminal laws in India has been proposed in the parliament. Through this change, social media and other electronic forms of communication would play a great role in evidence law and other criminal laws.”

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Now let’s dive deep into all the other impacts social media seems to be responsible for within Indian society and politics.

Social Media’s Role in Shaping Minds: As you may be aware, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become our primary sources of news and information in recent years. As people browse through their feeds, traditional media and television have taken a back place. We scroll through these platforms first thing in the morning and last thing at night. They obviously shape public opinion more than anything else. According to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, WhatsApp was the biggest source of news for 21% of Indians. However, the power of social media is not limited to news consumption; it can also be used to shape public opinion. Remember the uproar surrounding the Nirbhaya case? The hashtag #JusticeForNirbhaya trended around the world, putting huge pressure on authorities. This is only one example of how social media elevates voices and inspires debate on important subjects.

Digital Media for Votes: Moreover, digital platforms have developed into a platform for political activism and mobilisation. Take the #MeToo movement in India as an example. It gained attention on Twitter and Facebook, allowing people to share their personal experiences and demand change. Similarly, social media efforts propelled the farmer protests that rocked India in 2020, with hashtags like #FarmersProtest trending globally. In reality, many young people only discovered these topics through Instagram. Such movements highlight how social media can link like-minded people who can work together for a similar cause and make their voices heard. Political parties are fast to leverage the power of internet media during election seasons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s engagement on social media platforms was extremely important in reaching millions of voters in the 2014 and 2019 general elections. His ‘chaiwala-to-PM’ path was skillfully communicated using media such as Twitter and YouTube. Particularly, micro-targeting has emerged as an effective method in political campaigns. Organisations employ data analytics to customise communication to certain demographics, thereby influencing voter opinions. However, ethical questions have developed, and so has the necessity for transparency in these practices.

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Spreading Fake News: Despite the fact that social media has democratised information distribution, it has also paved the way for the propagation of false and misleading information. Remember the COVID-19 pandemic WhatsApp forwards, with treatments ranging from cow urine to garlic? False information can have real-world repercussions, such as impacting public health and decision-making. This lack of knowledge spreads to politics as well. The spread of fake news can impact how people feel and even lead to violence, as evidenced in events involving child kidnappings linked to fake news.

Social Media’s Influence on Government Decisions: The impact of social media goes beyond activism and campaigns; it can also shape government decisions. The ‘Save the Internet’ campaign in India successfully lobbied for net neutrality in 2015, with millions of Indians flocking to social media to express their concerns. However, this effect raises concerns about the balance of power between social media and democratic processes. To get back to what our Law Student, Mansi Priya, said, we do think that laws should be constantly evolving to keep up with these networking platforms. At last, social media and digital platforms have changed the face of Indian society and politics. While they enable citizens to express their concerns and mobilise for change, they also raise issues of misinformation and ethical use. It is our responsibility as users and responsible citizens to capitalise on the potential for positive change while critically analysing the content we consume and share on these digital platforms.

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By, Ashbiha Fathima

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