“Social media is about psychology and sociology more than technology.”
– Brian Solis
Revolution does not happen on the streets these days, it happens with the swipe of your finger. After all, who has the time in midst of a 9-5 job to take part in protests and rallies? Why would one go through all the trouble when the same result can be achieved by sharing a post on your Instagram stories while commuting to work?
One can get a quick recap of what’s happening around the world in precisely ten minutes and then can conveniently get back to binge-watching season 2 of Bridergerton. This recap would consist of four old links to fundraisers for the Ukrainian crisis, ten Instagram posts discussing the demolition in Jahangirpuri, and ten stories defending the same because it was an “illegal construction”. This would be followed by your average social media user sharing two posts from each side to let their 234 followers know of their neutral position and to get “woke points”. And that will be a wrap on their day (after scrolling through reels for 2.5 hours liking videos of their friends getting married).
To say that social media plays a crucial role in any political and sociological struggle in India would be an understatement. Even during the JNU and Jamia riots in Delhi, the “culprit” was identified through her Facebook profile. Overnight, her pictures and her entire life were a Twitter and Instagram thread wherein social media users were judge, jury, and executioner. Furthermore, allegedly, the “masked goons” who attacked the students met and formed a syndicate on WhatsApp groups like ‘Friends of RSS’ and ‘Left Terror Down Down’. Screenshots were shared and people were doxxed.
One might wonder, how and why did we end up here?
We are living in a time and age where people want information on the tip of their fingers. Who has the time to sit in front of a tv screen at the end of a long day and hear spokespersons of different parties yelling in the name of “debate” at every news channel?
Today, people prefer to read four slides of an Instagram post where key information is listed in bullet points. This is not a new trend that has emerged in the past few months. This was a seed in the ground and the isolation of the pandemic led people to turn to social media to fill the gaping hole that the lockdowns created.
This was not missed and some people identified the changing mood of the masses and took the same as an opportunity. For instance, in the midst of rising criticism of modern insensitive journalism, ‘Just the News’ by Faye D’Souza on Instagram has caused a steep rise in her popularity over the course of the pandemic. Some of Gen Z and even some millennials who could not tell the name of even one journalist to save their lives now know about the birth of D’Souza’s first child.
It is tough to determine whether this, like masks and sanitizer, is the new normal. But it is definite that gone are the days when politics was discussed by Hindus and Muslims alike over tea at the nukkad stall.
Shruti Tiwari lives in Delhi and has a Masters degree in English Language and Literature from University of Delhi.