Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Social Media and Social Change

First of all what is social Change?
Simply put, it is a collective change in the behavior of a large group of people which is different from a tradition, trend or a way of working of a system.
To narrow the definition we can say that the change is more libertarian – a more open minded society – open to changes, new ideas and not stuck in ancient beliefs – just following what has been going on and scoffing at what is not in line with that. It can concern anything – religion, politics, movies, business - everything that affects and modifies our daily life!
In no way, I say that those ancient beliefs and ideas are wrong or out of date. There are many examples where we can learn from the past. In religion, for example, going to a religious place, reciting/singing hymns (or listening to it) has been an ancient tradition. It was primarily an exercise of stress relief or a kind of meditation. But now going there has been made kind of compulsory, leading people to believe that if they don’t God will not be happy and his wrath will befall upon you.
The basic point here is that there was a reason to things which became ingrained in traditions and slowly people mindlessly started following it. The need is to know the Why behind it and if ‘Why’ is not relevant then being open to change.
All matters of Social Change will always start with a Why!!
Why should I be only an engineer?
Why shouldn’t I leave my job and be an entrepreneur?
Why can’t the government make public a detailed statement of account of its sources of income and expenditure?
Why is a scene in a movie with a person riding a horse banned or what is the problem with Savita Bhabhi?
Why can’t the government not punish who deserve it or who by acting in certain ways, with certain (un-understandable to common man) motives disrupt the daily lives of people.

Again, the focus here is only on the change in thought process and knowing that there is another person who thinks the same way. What can be done, How it can be done? – The action will be an after effect.
So now can Social Media of today lead to Social change.
I believe it certainly can - the main reason being the viral nature of it. Thoughts, views, observations get transmitted quickly over it that it beats the traditional - the literal word of mouth. Take Twitter for example. The option of retweeting ensures that 1 message will reach multiple people and the fact that it is being retweeted means that it is acceptable and people agree on it and are at par with the thoughts.
It further helps in opinions getting formed, sharpened and being known. Influencers like people from popular media get their thoughts easily transmitted. And more importantly, these ideas are challenged – many times with valid arguments. It also ensures that much more relevant problems and news will be able to reach the people who matter and who are in a position to take it to masses where mediums like twitter wont.
The best deal is that people who are stuck in the old form of beliefs with their stick to traditions and no change policy are NOT there on social media. Of course, how can they accept this wide world that continuously generates new thoughts and messages? As a result, with a majority of libertarians who are active here, the ideas being generated and transmitted are of that nature as well. And thus is in perfect sync with the social change defined above.
Once a good number of us are in line, then there can be a time of action. Then we can ask the authorities on where our taxes go or as Chetan Bhagat points out – even change the governments. After all many of us go voting believing that each and every vote matters and I can change the fate of nation with that one vote – which is clearly a farce. We can change only if 20 million of us vote similarly.
And what can be the medium to channel a similar thought for 20 million people - obviously a place where they all are present, where they hear, listen and observe. The Facebooks, twitters of today and may be something more focused to this task tomorrow!

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