Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Know Why You Are On Social Media

In my view, there are two kinds of social media users.

The first group comprises of those who are enthusiasts enjoying Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others.Let's call them Social Media Enthusiasts.

The second group is a bit more serious one. It consists of Social Media Activists. These are the folks who generate serious content, trends, work towards a common goal (mostly), take on challenges from the opposing ideology etc. In short, the "workers", who have have a fairly passionate goal. In majority of the cases, these 'worker bees' won't be paid, but they still do this activism because it is important to their heart.

No one knows what percentage of Twitter or Facebook users belong to the second category. My best guess is that it could be around 20%. Because the majority of those who use their computers and mobiles, usually do for study, news gathering, communicating or entertainment.

Let's focus on the second group, the Social Media Activists:

I am going to take up an example which is very familiar to me. In India, there's a huge pool of Twitter and Facebook users, who are frustrated with the corruption and lack of growth, due to outdated socialistic policies of a particular dynasty headed party. So, they are indulging in a fairly serious campaign on the social media, to remove the corrupt regime and instill a relatively corruption free, progressive and fast developing India. Without getting into personalities involved here, that sums up what I call, a "Pro-Hindu, Pro-Bharatiya" social media group. They have deep passion in particular for their fellow Hindus, their society at-large and the overall good of their nation.

I am sure most people who are in this group, depicted in the diagram above as green small arrows, know their overall goal. But what's missing here is the cohesion. They miss out the boundary separating their individual heterogeneous behaviour to a team play necessary in the homogeneous format. That creates differences. Sometimes it could be over their focus on Dharma aspects, sometimes over engagement with media houses and sometimes over political movements within their broader ideological umbrella. The list is endless.

So how do we handle differences? It needs some broad set of rules which will guarantee individual enthusiasm in using social media, while the common alignment needed to achieve their collective goal.

Here are some rules that I propose:

1) Do not lose your cool when provoked.
You are here on Twitter or Facebook to have fun. Your time is precious. Your resources used like time and money are precious. Don't waste it by unnecessarily indulging in personal fights or mudslinging. Yes, "eeth ka jawab pathhar se" (Reply with a rock when provoked with a brick) sounds adrenaline pumping, but if you do it too often, it's a vicious cycle drowning sane voices.

There are people specifically on the social media to provoke you. They have their own agenda. Don't fall into their trap.

2) Do not abuse:
No matter how grave the issue is, no matter how justified you think that you need to swear, go very easy on hurling abuses. Best thing is to never abuse anyone's family, caste, religion, language, sex etc. But if you lose cool occasionally, try to correct your path. Apologize openly if necessary. There's no ego involved here as abuse is never justified. Abuse is always relative as for one person even calling 'idiot' might be an abuse. So you position your own comfort level, but always watch for reactions. You can fine tune the line between criticism and abuse.

3) Do not try to control other like minded people - Try to convince.
This is one side effect of considering someone as your "friend" on social media. You might have interacted online or offline or both with that person. You have great trust on that person. Suddenly, when the person does something, like raising a viewpoint that is totally uncomfortable for you, try to convince them. Do not try to force your way, as you will eventually lose. If the person says he likes meat and if you are a strong advocate of vegetarianism, try to convince or compromise. You are no-one to force that person to not speak about meat recipes. If the person is invited as a guest to a particular corporate house, which you strongly disapprove, explain why he/she must not attend, rather than trying to bulldoze.

4) Do not try any boycott.
Another big mistake by emotional folks. There are group efforts to boycott some nations, some corporations, some papers, some ideology or some public figures. It could even be an angry campaign against your former online "friend"! Go back and look at your common goal in the picture above. By advocating boycott, you will most likely mobilize only a small group within that big heterogeneous team.  It's not easy and most likely you will fail. If you have enough impact on the groups, eventually the boycott may happen in other ways, but it takes a sustained campaign and very tough to implement. If you just can't take a person, just disengage, instead of trying for a mass boycott. Know your limits.

5) Do not let your differences break the group:
Know your opponents and your overall goals. If you want to reform your society, bring in new & capable leaders, end the vicious cycle of failures, you need to work really hard as a team. There would be a very concentrated fight back from your opponents, who know why you are here. Your online campaign is making them uncomfortable. They want all tricks in the book to break your team or group. Hence, do NOT let them break up your precious network. Your opponents are much bigger, hugely funded and powerful mainstream entities. Co-opt when necessary and expose where necessary.

Know where you should agree to disagree. Individual freedom and the collective group goal are two things which needs to be addressed. If you develop enough closeness with your online friend(s), you would have shared phone numbers by now. So talk things through offline. Have in-person meetings in your cities when required to re-energize the collective goal. The more cracks that are visible in your group to your opponent, the more they will exploit those fault lines. "Divide and Rule" is something that we are all familiar with, and your cracks are invitation for your opponents to use the same policy yet again. Worse, the casual social media enthusiasts will get either confused or get swayed away from you, if they see serious infighting among yourselves.

At the end, your social network activism will fail if you are divided and fighting among yourselves. And that's exactly what those in the position of power and those who want to censor or shut freedom of expression, want. Don't fall into their hands so easily. Social media is a great equalizer and even a bigger game changer. Treasure its power and achieve your collective goal!

{Credit: Parts of the illustrative picture was picked from socialpsychology.org, top10hitz.com and dil-ke-colour-pencil-se.blogspot}


  1. Well written and timely article. Can help align some of the Social Activists Arrows (Tweets).

  2. Very well written. I tend to agree with 98% of what you have articulated barring point no.4. I simply don't follow ppl who have a trusted reputation of talking nonsense, for eg sagarika ghosh or barkha dutt. I don't do it because I know it will get me involved into unwanted discussion which my time really doesn't permit. But that's me, don't know if its right or wrong but I really don't get involved in discussions which either don't make sense to me or are issues to which I have zero tolerance. Thanks for sharing this article, was really very well written. Cheers :):)

  3. Absolutely correct and need of the hour

  4. But plzz don't give them legitimacy by going to corrupt channels

  5. Is this article in response to MediaCrooks's outburst ? I can totally agree.

  6. I agree with this article , except that "Boycott" part . Historically boycott has been used as a political tool against opponents (Example British during freedom fight).There is nothing wrong if we boycott some channels.

    Today some channels are acting as propaganda machines for congress and anti national elements . They will only "use" IHs to get TRPs but their basic agenda will not change.

  7. @Malcolm, @biswajeet, @Le Tweeter, @rahul kumar - Thanks.

    @Rishi Bhardwaj - Not following someone is perfectly fine. That's your individual choice. But forcing others to boycott is silly.

    @rajat jain - You have two choices. Either you totally shun a "paid media" channel or you present your view when absolutely required. Just because you and me shun, the lakhs or crores who follow them won't shun. If we don't go, they will get someone else.

    @Rajesh - Yes, boycott is a sensible option, if you have the might to turn the tables against them. Let's say Twitter has 1.8 crore accounts from India. Let's say 1% of them are very committed to boycott a channel. That's 1.8 lakhs. Can you really influence the crores of viewers across India?

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