One only needs to see posts on social media sites to understand how the medium has affected people’s attitude to life. While there are many complaints heard on regular basis about its ill-effects, there needs to be appreciation of the many ways it has provided people the opportunity to learn and also display skills that would have otherwise remained confined to just their immediate world. In the old days, small town talent of any kind needed to be ‘discovered’ through a meeting with some influential person; today, the vast audience provided by the virtual world can transform people’s lives, sometimes overnight.
More than this, there has been a very swift transformation of culture and value systems among people, and also a coming together not so easy in earlier days. There is an entire dimension to social media that provides training in skills and learning to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them. Cross-checking facts and figures on the internet has become second nature for people.
So, are sociologists aware of the transformative nature of this modern day influence? Or, are they just focused on the ill-effects of fake news, scams, exploitation and addictive use? Do Indians, for instance, have a greater sense of nationhood, as well as understanding of the outside world? Are politicians keeping up with this new citizen, particularly from the younger demographic, which is probably less prone to being manipulated through the traditional gimmicks? The advertising industry was amongst the earliest to catch on and has contributed majorly to the expansion of the medium.
One needs only to see the sophistication in the spoofs and depiction of everyday life seen on media such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, etc., to realise the change taking place. How will this influence matters in real life – politics in particular? Will not politicians have to engage and learn from this reality? How is it going to affect voting behaviour, which is presently trapped in the cliché of caste and community? People who can create such satirical takes on their own lives will surely be able to see through the shallow lies and posturing of professional ‘leaders’. The manner in which Covid-19 is forcing electioneering to shift into virtual mode should also impact upon results. The ongoing campaigns for the five state assemblies will, if studied intelligently, throw up some answers to these questions. And, hopefully, lead to a ‘smarter’ democracy.