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Using social networks to mobilize the youth of India for voting




In today’s world, where there is apparently more awareness about politics and the impact of politics on governance and the future of the country, it makes for an interesting study about how social networks can be used to mobilize the youth of India for ensuring that they vote. In short, if one were to write about this, the relevant topic would be: “How would you inspire and mobilize India’s youth to vote in the 2014 Indian General Elections using social mobile apps?”
In previous elections, the level of voting has been low, especially when one considers the more developed regions of cities and the richer class. But even otherwise, the total level of voting would not cross 60%, which means that people would be dis-satisfied with their elected representatives, but would not take the trouble of going during the election to actually vote for the candidate whom they think could make things better. This was especially true of the youth, the voters in the age group of 18-21, many of whom would not even be registered as a voter even though they were eligible.
In the recent elections, things seemed to have taken a slight reverse, with voting patterns higher than previous elections, and with the youth taking a more active part during the election process; although this was also present during the period before the elections. And I am not talking about group discussions that happened during physical meetings, but extensive discussions that happened on social networks such as Facebook where a topic could be raised by a person and his / her friends and others who were connected would actually be presenting their points of view (some of these views could be mis-informed, others were based on bias, but you would also find people who were pretty well informed and made logical and fact based points).
So why was there much more discussion and awareness during these last set of state elections, which reached to the end state of voting as well ? Well, a part of it could be because the overall environment was so bad in terms of a large number of controversies, scams, scandals, as well as grievous crimes such as rapes that were widely reported and which got the youth involved to a large degree. However, this is only part of the equation. The other half of the equation was the wide presence of social networks. Youth are active participants in social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, and when something happens which causes them to feel strong emotions, expressing those on social networks is a natural byproduct of those. Frequent exposure to some sort of political events on social networks tends to cause a feeling that they need to do something, this feeling carrying over to time of voting.
However, does this mean that when there are no major upheavals or scandals, the youth will not be so interested. Well, it is not easy to say that nothing will happen during future elections or even the next Lok Sabha election, but even if there are lesser stages of awakening, social networks can be skilfully used to ensure that the youth of India are involved in the election process upto the stage of voting, and maybe even beyond, to track how their representatives are doing.
What can bodies such as the Election Commission, or political parties do ? Well, the Election Commission has been trying to ensure that young voters who become eligible are actually provide voting rights and their names are included in the electoral rolls. Towards this end, even campaigns on Facebook in terms of interesting ads and posts from prominent persons and youth icons such as sportsperson and film stars can be used very effectively to involve youth and the same can be done through the Twitter feed of these eminent personalities. For political parties, getting the youth on their side is critical since this is a large unattached electorate, and since the difference between winning and losing can be just a few percentages, getting the youth vote would make a difference. So, political parties need to push items that are likely to get youth attention, such as bad economy and less jobs, crime that affects young women, and so on, and prepare attractive posts on the same. The idea is to ensure that such posts are re-tweeted many times and forwarded on Facebook in the hope that they become viral and draw more people towards them, and eventually get these younger set of voters to the voting booth.
The advantage in today’s world is the increased presence of these apps on mobile phones, and increasingly more and more young people are carrying enhanced feature phones or smartphones that allow them to access social networks through social media mobile apps, which makes it very easy for them to express their opinions right when they feel the need to do so. In a reverse effect, as more young people get connected to online political party platforms, these parties can access them almost till the time of voting, seeking to convert them into volunteers, seeking donations from them, and exhorting them to go and vote on the day of voting.




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