The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Monday, 7 January 2013


2012 was a year that showed us all that all the talks about the ‘immature social media hype creating the anti-corruption protests of 2011’ were so utterly misplaced.

Indeed the trend on social media last year qualitatively refuted this assumption.

Agreed, it was not anywhere near to the groundbreaking role social media played in the Arab Spring or in the ‘Occupy’ protests, but the elements here do established that they could act serious and responsive when needed and the future is going to see more uniformity in the response.

Given the Indian demographics and the related sociological patterns, the frivolous use of social media is bound to take a larger share in the country. The youth forms the majority of the Indian population. The median age of Indian population is 25.1 years. Majority of them are half-baked and alienated. And they are not to blame for it. It is their socioeconomic condition, a poor education infrastructure and the psychological stress to earn anyhow, that does them in.

Ideally, the major concern of this half-baked majority is bread and butter. Obviously, the call to fight for change would come later on for them. Whatever the time they get away from the daily routine of work to earn, would naturally go to the recreation stuff, be it the traditional media or the social media, if they are using it.

But the 2012 told us we are in the transition mode towards the increasing clout of the socially-responsible social media use. The response to two public uprisings tells us this.

The anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare in 2011 had its initial surge in the social media response. The traditional media came subsequently. Later on, the movement failed due to the internal design flaws of the umbrella group ‘India Against Corruption’. It’s a well known fact by now. There were many flip-flops on the commitment to the core issue of ‘corruption’. Add to it the personal bickering among the group members and display of personal agenda in the public and we had a perfect recipe for disaster. That too, reflected in the social media trends.

The way support dried up for the movement reflects the slip was indeed a disaster. The massive social media support was the major reason to mobilize and organize youth who formed the initial core group of the neutral but motivated supporters of the movement when it began in April 2011. After a period of modest trends in-between, it peaked in August 2011 when we saw huge public outrage pouring over the arrest of Anna Hazare. The government ultimately had to come to the talking terms. Social media was the major communication platform for the organizers and their support groups. Remember the Anna Hazare video from inside the jail posted on YouTube! 

But after this high, it was a sharp downhill except the brief spike during the failed December fast of 2011. But it was more to do with the existing support base working overtime in the last-ditch effort to revive the movement. And the overall social media trends reflected that.

Two pictures

The above two analytical graphs for ‘Anna Hazare and ‘IAC’ Facebook pages and their presence on other new media platforms are taken from a study* done for the US Government Office of South Asia Policy’ by the ‘Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison’. I am not using the context of the study here but only borrowing some representational data to support the viewpoint of this article. 

The activity data from these two graphs clearly show us how the social media activity related to the movement died down post-August 2011 fast. The analysis in the study is till February 2012 but there was nothing much to talk about the anti-corruption movement, Team Anna and ‘India Against Corruption’ in 2012 except the controversies related to them.

Anna Hazare, the erstwhile Team Anna, the new Team Anna and the members of Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Aam Aadmi Party’, all were in the news throughout the year for different reasons. The common thread among them was they were consistently talking about ‘change’ and the ‘politics of change’. Yet, they didn’t stir the imagination of the youth anymore. The social media was almost not talking about them (except the routine stuff and the existing support base).

Anna Hazare was the major factor that led the youth to trust and accept the call. But once it was clear that the movement was hijacked by the vested interests, they simply moved away from it. The vigourous activity on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media platforms that was there during the April 2011 and September 2011 fasts flattened later on.

Many said social media as a support medium for protests failed in India and the high trends during the Anna Hazare fasts were just impulsive reactions of a ‘not so socially responsible youth’.

But that was not to be an obituary as some analysts were writing about.

The huge support to the Delhi gangrape protests is a living testimony to it. While there was an organized group working on to mobilize the youth base through proactive social media use, the unorganized Delhi gangrape protests were organized by the youth voicing the need to react and speak up against the government’s lackadaisical attitude on the Delhi gangrape probe that soon became a movement to address social concerns about women security and independence.

Elements of spontaneity were there in both the movements. But the Delhi gangrape protests being a ‘reactive and unorganized’ movement with a leaderless leadership tells us the transition is happening in a positive direction.

The reactive civil movements with mass participations are the right kind of tools to pressure the insensitive governments in a democracy to act proactively.

The youth mobilization in the Delhi gangrape case has been mainly based on the use of social media to connect the dots to form the line of protests.

The movement has generated support across the urban centres of the country, the places with possible dots having social media users discerning enough to take a call.

Also, the tools were used not only to connect and promote but also to refute. The administration’s version in the controversial death of the Delhi Police constable who was injured when the protests turned violent, aimed at the sensationalizing the issue and suppress the protests by blaming the protesters, was strongly and successfully questioned and rebutted on social media and was taken up later by the mainstream media to raise pointers of relevant debate.  

A Hindustan Times report wrote: Protest pages on Facebook and Twitter hashtags like #DelhiProtests, #DelhiGangRape and #StopThisShame acted like pivotal platforms to help activists conveniently arouse sentiments, announce protests and enlist demonstrators.

And in contrast, as was in the case of the anti-corruption movement of 2011, we cannot say that the traditional media played and equally participating role in the origin and sustenance of the Delhi gangrape protests.

The day after the day when the crime took place, it was 2nd phase of the Gujarat assembly election. Most of the mainstream media vehicles chose to give the news related to the crime a passing treatment. The apathy was even more on the show on December 20, the day of counting of votes.

Meanwhile, the youth had started reacting on the social media platforms. The government apathy and media’s differential treatment only helped the dots connect fast and bond more strongly. There was a spontaneous sense of urgency to call for protests right on December 17, 2012.

By the time, when the mainstream media took the issue ‘prominently’, the youth was already there in the streets, raging, voicing and protesting. The mainstream media only supplemented, and not ‘assisted’.

And the way the protests went peacefully and are still continuing, except one or two aberrations, are indeed the positive signs for the Indian democracy.

The protests were largely dominated by a mob-free mentality. No one was instructing them but they felt let-down by the violence (by the few anti-social elements among the protesters), worked to rectify it and kept the movement apolitical; and have kept the moment apolitical.

The protests were not anti-government; they were anti-system.

When a protest movement takes this orientation, it is a positive sign for a democracy and warning to the policymakers that they are on the wrong track and are coming under the watch of the electors.

And it was this increasingly mature nature of the protest that made the government to come to the talking terms.

After the huge, huge mobilization, the sudden steep fall for the anti-corruption movement of 2011 and the ‘reactive, spontaneous, leaderless and growing’ support to the Delhi gangrape protests just after a year tell us how wrong it was to write off the potential of social media and the collective conscious of the youth. 

This surge of youth activism not only has stunned the current breed of the insensitive political class, but also has helped to pull the global attention on an otherwise internal social issue.

* Analyzing Social Media Momentum-India’s 2011-12 Anticorruption Movement, Prepared for U.S. Government Office of South Asia Policy, Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey -