Writer, teacher and academic blogger. Writes a social media trilogy. Forthcoming books: Myth of the Social Media Politics (Primus Books), Intimate Speakers (Fingerprint).Specializes on celebrity culture, political class, culture studies, business politics and technology.
Calculated and strategic use of platforms ensures extra mileage for the politicians. However, all the users are not successful. Not all politicians are able to hit where they should. Very few, top end users represent the social media empire of fifth estate constituencies. While, Twitter represent the class character of elite users, Facebook represents mainly a crowd class. Between Twitter and Facebook, thus materializes a divide between elite class and crowd class.
Twitter is not a crowd puller for politicians. It negotiates with those who are in positions where decisions are up for the masses. Whereas Facebook is crowd class and crowd puller. It has larger basis among family and friendship tie. The case is similar among rest of the platforms. Google Plus, LinkedIn, and YouTube have its own class basis. YouTube has attracted Aam Aadmi. Google Plus appealed to the city dwellers, whereas LinkedIn among the professionals and educated Indians.
Among this, Narendra Modi has higher popularity in Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter. Narendra Modi has over fifty eight lakh likes on his Facebook page. He has over nine lakh followers in Google Plus and twenty seven lakh followers in Twitter. Every Wall comment, tweet and blog post by Narendra Modi gets a frenzied response. Shashi Tharoor has over nineteen lakh followers in Twitter. When Tharoor speaks to comparatively rich, middle and upper middle class Indians, Modi arguably speaks to crowd class.
The platforms have class character and the politics it represents too has class configuration. Twitter speakers do not reach out to millions and even many. They hit super rich who are in circles of influential decision making class. Twitter represents super rich, upper middle class Indians who are famous in their own community, industry and profession. Facebook speakers has crowd basis. Somehow it is like a shopping mall, a town square. When tweets do not reaches too many, wall updates notifies to millions in the street.
Elites are not frequent to Facebook whereas the crowd is. Twitter users are not the one who likes what Facebook class is normally doing. Twitter class does not expect the kind of user content what Facebook provides to its class. The Google hangout offers video interface to a kind of class whereas LinkedIn is too much professional and it provides user content that satisfy a peculiar audience. Platforms are specific to purposes and politicians migrating to platforms are up to specific targeted audience.
Known and unknown politicians from every nook and corner of India’s electoral politics migrated to platforms where ever they can hit the voters of their choice. Facebook, Twitter, etc. will have greater influence in the electoral arithmetic particularly urban India. Combat zone for votes and politics has surfaced in the social networking sphere in India and the social media has come out to be the fresh amplifier for Indian political clan.
Yet, participatory politics taking shape via platforms are not mass participation. Digital media is very much mediated and it only represented the portion of the super rich Indians. The mass in now are able to hear what politicians speak over platforms as there are visible markers of divide resurfacing over the years.
Narendra Modi chat on social network Google+ and reportedly received questions and comments with millions watching across. Big players like Mamata Banerjee to the young politicians like Jose K Mani from Kerala; Facebook is a crowd puller device.
From famous and well known political bigwigs like Shashi Tharoor who is illustrious for his tweets to Narendra Modi and from lesser known politicians like captain Gopinath to Meera Sanyal, Twitter has constituted a ‘twittersphere’ for the participatory engagements in politics. Hardly any of the politicians accounts active as of now barring few.
There is an official Facebook page and Twitter account for Dr Manmohan Singh but it is not active and interactive. It is only logical that younger politicians tweet/comment/share/post more than their senior counterparts. In India, the story changes altogether. Hardly any of the senior politicians are actually active and updated on any of the social media platforms even if they have presence.
This conceivably has two reasons. Majority of fifth estate inhabitants are young. Social media vigilantism and advocacy are trouble to political class. Currently, half of our population is below 25 years of age and average age of an Indian is 25. This will change by 2020, when the average age is 29. Therefore, so far, the political class does not find the Internet as a powerful tool yet.
Social media scrutiny is deterrence for political class that keeps the politicians at woof. If someone is wrong, on the platforms, it becomes a subject of mass scrutiny. In the due course, if anything on a social networking site raises a storm it eventually finds its way on to the other mediums.
Occasionally, Shashi Tharoor’s tweets were trapped in the eye of storm, but one tweet about economy class on airplane was the final nail in the coffin. Many off line acts of political class get wider public scrutiny in social networking sites, which probably prevents the class politicians of India from leveraging the platform.
In fact, social media has class basis. It is reflective of the class character of those who use it. Form lower classes to upper class, platforms are appealing to specific kinds of audience. Political class has found their own Pandora box. However it doesn’t mean that social media is India and India is how social media looks like. It does not mean that social media represent the mass.
When the mass goes to platforms it means a platform has come up. When mass refrain it also mean that a new platforms has been up. Up and down, social media do electrify the class configurations. The visible marker of class based social media politics is mediation. Mediated politics has become visible at the end of the day. Question is who mediates the platforms by what strategy and tactics.