Ayesha Siddiqa, renowned scholar from Pakistan, in an interview says, “Our middle class is increasingly becoming apolitical, on both sides of the border. They may have an opinion but that doesn’t make them political. They are apolitical firstly. Secondly, they are into this identity mantra which they don’t even understand. The question is “where do I belong?” So the identity in that way becomes very political commodity. Used for manipulation. So that’s what social media does, most of the time- manipulate.”
Siddiqa was correct in her assertion. Our middle class- especially a major section of the youth is increasingly becoming apolitical. Alienation from politics is a part of the characteristic of this emerging youth. Ironically, this segment of society gets updated about politics via Facebook and/orTwitter. Needless to say few hyperactive politicians and organisations have hijacked our social media platforms and their PR machinery is so strong that they have a virtual presence all over. They have attracted the younger population of the country (I am talking about those who have an access to internet; many do not have in our part of the world and thus we must not generalise things) and have forced people to see the society through the coloured lens provided by them. Sad, indeed sad!
In this scenario can we expect our youth to utilise social media, simply put, to engage with the politics? Yes, we must.
I feel the situation is not too bleak right now. And this is the right time to engage with the younger generation. Just because some people have used the digital platforms in a certain way does not mean we cannot use it in a better way. In fact there are many smaller groups who are using Social Media to not only to reach out to larger audience but also use it for disseminating critical information related to politics and society. There are many voluntary groups who are using social media to help the people affected in Uttarakhand. One such group on facebook is Boond. These pages and groups are not apolitical. They are discussing politics and are also trying to educate the younger generation about the same.
We need to define ‘Politics’ to engage with it. Politics is just not participating in the annual ritual called election. It is an ongoing process and requires effort from each section of the society to contribute in making of a better society. It is not just about making of a better society but also creating of better opportunities for everybody to be a part of the process. Social media gives an opportunity to be vocal about what you feel; debate on what you feel needs to be changed and engage in conversations with like and not-so-likeminded people. Certainly it helps in the process of building a better ‘democracy’ and it is high time we realise this!
This article was first published in Youth Ki Awaaz on June 25, 2013