Apr 8, 2011

Anna Hazare and the Social Media- Twitter and Facebook "revolution"

Over the last few days the Indian social media has been abuzz with people on Twitter and Facebook conversing about civil activist Anna Hazare's campaign for the Jan Lok Pal Bill. While the mainstream media has gone into a frenzy its been interesting to note how the denizens of Indian social media have responded.

There are some things to note.

Not too many people on the social networks know about the nuances of the Jan Lok Pal legislation that Anna Hazare is fasting for.

However, Anna Hazare has become (as my friend Vijayendra Mohanty tweeted) a hugely symbolic lightening rod for the huge emotional baggage Indians feel against corruption in everyday life. With the 2G scam and the Commonwealth Games scams fresh in memory, this has become a rallying point for ordinary Indians to vent their anger.

In that context social media, specially Twitter and Facebook have become tools for people to share their feelings, thoughts, and plans.

In the one end there are people who form groups on Facebook, add badges to their profile with slogans like "India against corruption" - exhorting people to support the fight, retweeting on Twitter and liking posts on Facebook.

At the next level are the people who are "doing" symbolic gestures, using these networks to gather middle class folks in their cities to express solidarity with the movement - light candles and shout slogans against corruption.

Then there are the sceptics - who doubt if all this would lead to any point. They point out that "liking" anti-corruption posts on facebook and retweeting will not end corruption. They are also disgusted with the binary argument of some people who believe that "If you don't support Anna Hazare you are condoning corruption"

Then there are the cynics - who believe that supporting Anna Hazare is futile by the same population that indulges in corrupt practices, does not engage in civil society and fails to get out of home to vote. A group who believes that the fast by Anna Hazare is a coercive tactic by a person who does not want to stand for elections and change the system - clubbing him with other opponents of the Indian government who also use similar arguments with different tools.

Then there are a few who actually know what the bill seeks to achieve and are uncomfortable with the thought of a body which is not answerable to anyone.

However, looks like the believers are right now leading - exhorting the sceptics and cynics to let go of their attitude and just believe. And the support by film celebrities to Hazare also is making the large number of twitter folks aware of the issue

As my friend Gaurav Mishra blogs:

It seems that Hazare’s India Against Corruption campaign is attracting some serious support on the Indian social web. The Facebook page has more than 120000 likes, the Facebook event has more than 60000 attendees and #annahazare is trending on Twitter worldwide. The campaign’s Twitter account @janlokpal is also getting some traction. Overall, the campaign claims to have received 7 lakh calls in support at +91-22-61550789.
Several celebrities and thought leaders have supported Anna’s campaign on Twitter. Author Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat), who wrote a blog post urging people to write “Mera Neta Chor Hai” (my politician is a thief in Hindi) on their forearm to spread awareness of the campaign beyond the English-speaking elite, is also being talked about.
Twitter users are using each other to go to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, Azad Maidan in Mumbai and Freedom Park in Bangalore to support Anna’s fast until death. India Against Corruption claims that protests have been organized at 400 locations around the world.