MUHAMMAD ATIF - Some inventions are so immense in their effect that they cast their shadow over the whole fabric of society, making escape inconceivable for any segment rather all units of society have to reorient themselves to make living under the new umbrella.
Presence of social media is not as vibrant in Pakistan as it is in those countries where Internet is a common utility but its merger with cellular services made it possible to the people living even in the remotest areas to access social networking sites.
One does not need to be a sociologist, anthropologists or psychologists to surmise the effects of an excessively-used commodity – whether negative or positive.
There are certainly trail blazers who set the tone for others but once the path is shown, there is no way back. Social networks were initially launched to help people get interacted and stay connected but they have. After getting friends, got into relationships, following their favourite celebrities or playing games with people sitting poles apart, users seek more. They are longing for identity, reform, change, prosperity, popularity, promotion and fame and social networks can make this happen for them.
The glaring precedence of using social media to activate a movement was seen at the turn of 2011 when Wael Ghonim, a computer engineer, engineered protests via his Facebook page, kick-starting the demise of decades-long regime of usurper Hosni Mubarak. He called for people through his page to protest against the dictator. The protest turned out to be too spirited to be controlled by Mubarak and caused his downfall. The TIMES magazine hounded Ghonim by placing him at the top of its 100 most influential people of the year.
Pakistan has an estimated population of 180 million out of which 50 per cent is below 20 and 60 per cent is below 30. So evidently the country is relying on its youth to excel in economy, bringing stability and surfacing leadership.
The country is battling with problems like incapable leadership, corrupt bureaucracy and powerful elite which wield unquestionable authority. The influential people do whatever they want.
But the social media is breaking these trends by offering a platform to the people to challenge the forces of status quo and their authority. The case of Shahzeb Khan can be taken as the case study.
Twenty-year-old Shahzeb Khan, from Karachi, was allegedly shot dead by two boys from feudal families on December 25 but police were reluctant to register a case against the nominated perpetrators.
The people took this injustice to micro blogging site, Twitter, and expressed their discontent against the system that shelters big fish and tramples less powerful. The tweeters demanded the chief justice of Pakistan take suo moto action against the killers.
Raising voice through the social media, protesters refused to give up to the discriminatory system and their stated goal was to keep on protesting with such a vehement on the social media that news media and authorities would be forced to take notice and they successfully did it.
The protest got viral soon and the news media had to play up the issue. The CJP responded to their defiance by calling up the Sindh police IG and ordered the authorities to arrest the killers in 24 hours and seize their family assets.
The social media can be a catalyst in elimination of a discriminatory, unjust system and unquestionable authority of the ruling elite, prompting people to seek political transformation. In another social media campaign few weeks back, host of TV actors and producers voiced against the invasion of Turkish soaps on Pakistani channels and they launched their crusade via YouTube and Facebook, urging users through a video message to support their cause.
Advertisement, campaigning, promotion and moulding or forming public opinion is all about communication and inducing one’s message into the minds of recipients. While watching TV, reading newspaper and Internet surfing, the ads we encounter are imposed on us whether we want them or not.
Contrarily, on the social media no video or other sort of message can grab our focus unless we want it, thus gratifying our thrust for desired content instead of receiving unwanted message. Outreach of social media cannot be denied in the currents age and its spectrum is sprawling over every realm of life including the most common, important and human aspect of individual as well as social life, like politics, economy, justice, entertainment and relationships – all getting integrated with the social media.
Politicians will be overlooked and overshadowed, if they do not come on the common platform to get connected with their electorates. Even naive business houses will not be in position to ignore the vitality of the social media that is rendering the biggest springboard to disseminate their message. Celebrities’ will be gauged with the volume of Likes on their Facebook pages, followers on Tweeter and stardom will descend on those who will have maximum hits on YouTube. On individual level, the social media inculcated a sense of being important to the consumers. One can have indefinite admirers for his passion that otherwise was concealed or struck in a dead alley.
It gives excitement of knowing round-the-clock updates about the people we admire, adore, love, care for and follow.
It can be summarised that the social media will be the stage on which all actors will have to perform, sooner or later, to build the image for themselves of a vigilant and active component of society.