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‘Social Media has created ripples in the political scene’

priti-gandhiPriti Gandhi is an on ground foot soldier of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) who is also actively representing the party on social media sites. Priti can be termed as the warrior of BJP’s social network and her only aim is to support Narendra Modi for becoming prime minister of this country. She is known as @MrsGandhi on twitter, sometimes people also make humour out of it. Mrs. Gandhi spoke about the influence of social media in mainstream politics and how the medium can’t be overlooked in an exclusive interview with our Group Editor Vaidehi Sachin.

What makes you spend time and interact with unidentified people in virtual world at the cost of spending time with familiar people in real world?

I often tell my ‘real’ life friends that I belong to two parallel worlds which are absolutely different from each other. If you ask me to choose between the two, I won’t be able to do so because both are extremely vital for me.

Not only for me, but for many like us the virtual world has become similar to one big family of different types of people coming together, from across the globe. While there are many who agree with you, there are also those who compel you to think and view things in a different light and many a times, it’s a better perspective. It makes you realise that there are many other point of views out there, which at times maybe better than yours. It’s a continuous learning process.

What does it take to become a twitter celebrity? What makes you so popular in the online world?

Honestly, I never thought of myself as a “Twitter Celebrity”, but yes, I am extremely grateful to all those who consider me worth following and have added to my huge follower count. It feels good to know that what you’re writing is read by almost 30,000 people and they’re giving a thought to your point of view. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoy all the attention I receive on social media.

Sometimes I’m told that I’m popular because of my handle – @MrsGandhi but I feel eventually it’s the substance in your communication that draws people to you and retains them there.

What I feel is that what  makes me popular on these sites, is my honesty and blunt approach and the fact that I’m just being myself.

How do you see social media’s role in changing political course of the country?

social media has created ripples in the political scene not just in India but across the globe. Whether it’s the Presidential election in United States of America or the Egypt uprising, a huge part of the credit in these political success stories is enjoyed by the social media. Even in India, this medium is now looked upon as a force to reckon with and a voice that cannot be overlooked.

I believe social media has the power to set the agenda for the Mainstream Media which in turn influences a much larger population.

One classic example of the social media calling the shots would be the appointment of Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. The pressure the social media exerted to see their favourite poster boy take charge of this prestigious position and lead the party became too much for it to ignore which led to decisions being taken under the influence of social media.

Issues like the provocative Akbaruddin Owaisi’s speech would never have been taken up by the concerned authorities had it not been for social media.

Even though over 2 per cent population of India is on twitter and over 7 per cent on Facebook, only a handful of people dominates political discourse on social media, most seems uninterested?

I beg to differ. Infact, I see tremendous participation on social media by all types of people from various walks of life. At times, some may be more popular than others but everyone here has an equal opportunity to voice an opinion or raise a question. If the opinion/question makes sense, it goes viral instantly and due recognition is given.

Can we afford to have an unrestricted social media without any government control, intervention and censorship?

This question instantly brings to my mind the very unfortunate and upsetting episode of what twitter termed as #GOIblocks

Without any provocation, the government suddenly decided to block 14 prominent voices on a renowned social media platform.

No legitimate reasons were being given for blocking these handles, all of who were Right Wingers questioning government policies and decisions. Many actually compared this episode with the emergency.

social media is a medium where people discuss, ask questions and look for solutions to the issues closest to their heart. I believe, it’s a revolution that is here to stay and a democratic country like ours should only welcome it.

A very interesting contrast, I would like to highlight here is how the use of social media for some has become a major disadvantage compared to someone like Narendra Modi who has taken complete advantage of this medium to reach out to people and convey his message loud and clear, making him the most popular politician in the country today.

How does it affect you emotionally? Do you get attached to the people online, without even meeting them? Do they become real life friends/foes?

This question brought tears to my eyes. On the 7th of October, we lost a very prominent, active social media activist to liver failure. It was amazing to see how people on Twitter get together not only to collect funds for his treatment amounting to almost Rs. 15  lakhs, but also personally monitored his condition while he was in hospital. Sadly, we lost him. Interestingly, even his last rights were conducted from another social media activist’s home since he was hospitalised in a different city away from home. In today’s world, such things are unheard. However, I saw a sea of humanity come together as a family, on social media. Truly an example!

Does right-wing control social media hurting ethos of the country?

The fact is that no one can control social media. Not the right wing, nor the left wing or any political party. It’s clearly the voice of the common man who is so fed up of the system and one sided communication. These circumstances made him/her to take social media as a platform where he can ask questions and dismiss policies. It’s important to understand where all this is coming from.

Will online support for Narendra Modi convert into votes?

In a country where there are more than 16 crore internet users and surveys also have predicted that there are 160 parliamentary constituencies where social media and the internet will have a huge impact. It is but obvious that the online support Narendra Modi and the BJP enjoy will convert to votes. The ripple effect that the social media creates will be a major advantage for the party.

What is politically more relevant – Twitter or Facebook?

Both the social media sites — Twitter and Facebook — are totally different from each other with unique features and advantages. Currently, Facebook has a wider reach than Twitter. However, I feel Twitter is slightly more relevant than Facebook in setting an agenda. Eventually, both compliment each other.

Is social media killing reading habits? Do you get most of the news through social media?

I would not say Social Media is killing reading habits because a lot of reading these days is done online. Infact, you get an idea of who is reading what and what’s worth reading. I would say, Social Media encourages people to read and learn more. I personally get most of my news online.

Will you feel uneasy if your cellphone is taken away from you for 48 hours?

Nowadays, without my cell phone, I would feel like a fish without water. I can’t even imagine life without my mobile phone, anymore.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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