The youth today can manage an entire day without money in their pockets, but cannot survive half an hour without internet.
Social media is no more a luxury but a necessity. Be it BBM, Whatsapp, Facebook or Skype, we religiously keep ourselves online and updated to elude the Fear Of Missing Out (acknowledged as FOMO in the Oxford Dictionary).
With over 82 million Indians registered on Facebook and about 17 million first-time voters in the country, The Times of India has come up with an initiative in collaboration with Facebook to spread awareness and provide for inclusion of the youth in the Electoral process. The two organizations together, have launched a new feature 'Register to Vote' on Facebook to attract more votes in the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha polls, especially from those in the 18-19 years of age bracket.
This is not the first time social media has taken up centre-stage for political activities. Facebook has been reverberating with the 'Jai Ho's of Narendra Modi for quite a while now. The NaMo team has left no stone unturned to reach out to the youth of today. The infamous 2002 Gujrat riots to which Modi is often linked, took place at a time when our young voters were still learning to read properly, let alone read the news.
Consequently, the social media strategies hit the bull's eye with our young voters, with an absolute reconstruction of his public image through the digital platform. Narendra Modi with about 1.8 million followers on Twitter is among the early birds to tap this opportunity and resurrect himself amid the controversies.
According to a report in The Economist, electronic media is the most powerful means to reach the public. Political PR professionals nowadays focus more on building and sustaining a connection with the prospective voters, rather than trying to influence them. The locus of attention has switched from promoting the politicians, to promoting the electoral process.
Social media not only puts forward an opportunity to bring about awareness, but also to establish a direct contact with the voters. Despite a number of controversial statements and Tweets, Shashi Tharoor's following has only been rising. Being politically incorrect might be a tactic, but the youth of today seem more impressed with the truth behind his tweets and not the twisted interpretations flashing over news channels.
A survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in the beginning of 2013, indicated that 39% of American citizens participate in the political activities on social networking sites. This approach was undertaken by the Obama team, where they interacted directly with the public, eradicating the possibility of debatable statements.
Mamata Banerjee, who won the local body polls in rural West Bengal, is speculated to have lost her sheen among the urban voters, with respect to the arrests of citizens early this year for supporting anti-Mamata posts and cartoons online.
Remember when a major furore was created last year when news of 2 Mumbai women put under arrest for writing and the other for liking a Facebook post where they were disagreeing with the Mumbai-bandh for the funeral of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray became viral? Such incidents brought to surface the ongoing dispute between the age-old unjustifiable norms and moral policing by certain political parties and the free-thinking, politically incorrect youth of the country, who are robustly informed of their right to freedom of speech.
The latest 'Versus' campaign initiated by the 'I Lead India' team, aims to channel this blaze in the young generation of voters with a focus on Youth Parliament. The movement is followed by over a good 1 lakh young minds who are actively involved in debates concerning the changes that India is in need of at this hour.
Conclusively, social media is the biggest platform, not only to win the hearts of the budding voters but also to bring them together for active participation on the political front. This generation of facebookers is not about funny statuses and photos anymore, but to do whatever it takes to metamorph India into the 'Sone ki Chidiya' once again!