July 21, 2018

Social media’s role in the 2018 polls

News Source: Daily Times

Writer:  Mohsin Bukhari

People have started to confront and question the credibility of their leaders about their performances during the last five years. Many such videos have emerged on social media in recent times.

“Technology and social media have brought power back to the people,” says Mark McKinnon who is an American political advisor, reform advocate, media columnist and television producer.

Recently, a video of Pakistan Muslim League — Noon (PML-N)leader Shehbaz Sharif went viral when he was crossing a road in London like an ordinary citizen. Another video also showed him negotiating fare with a taxi driver. These videos became a major topic of discussion on both social media and talk shows on TV.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which is considered the pioneer of using social media in politics,couldn’t avoid its evil side either when a video of Imran Khan with his wife Bushra Maneka at a Pakpattan shrine went viral.

Similarly, voters grilled PML-N’s senior leader Jamal Leghari in Dera Ghazi Khan as soon as he visited his area in the run up to the upcoming polls.

Social media has not only raised awareness among the people but also enabled them to question their own leaders.

Most of people define social media as different applications on their smart phone or tablet, but the truth is that it started with the invention of computers. It has given an ordinary citizen the ability to share photos, opinions, events etc. in real-time which has transformed the way we live.

Amy Jo Martin, an American author, says, “Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.”

There are approximately 150 million mobile phone subscribers in Pakistan including 55 million 3G and 4G users, according to the latest statistics of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). In total, 58 million people have access to broadband internet now. These numbers also suggest that massive number of social media users, who will definitely impact the politico-social landscape of the country. And the role of social media will be most important in 2018 polls, considered to be the most fierce election exercise in recent times.

Social media has also allowed people to record incidents from places that conventional media usually does not have access to.

Nowadays, every political party has its own media cell. The content shared on these accounts may influence the behaviour of voters. Candidates can also use the social media to reach out to people with their plan and policies. These case of Donald Trump is the best example of this phenomenon.

People are definitely becoming self-aware, but we will have to wait and see till the July 25 polls to ascertain the impact of social media on general elections.

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