September 2010
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Get,set,tweet for a social cause

Is the ease of using Twitter and Facebook giving rise to a growing breed of armchair activists? Does such activism bring about any social change at all?

On Saturday, some members of the city’s Twitter community at Bandra came together at a discussion hosted by organisers of the initiative, Jaago Re — One Billion Votes.

The campaign was successful in influencing a large section of youngsters to vote during the last assembly elections. NGOs and social institutions, however, have been worried about theInternet’s ability to make netizens complacent with lighting virtual candles and signing online petitions.

Social change activists are now keen to successfully exploit the word-of-mouth trigger amongst Twitter, Facebook and YouTube users in India.

Vikrama Dhiman, product manager at a digital agency, pointed out that it was too early to use social media for stubbing out larger long-term issues like poverty and sexual abuse. “Twitter is like the Pali Hill of the web. There are only a limited number of causes which resonate with this community of users,” he said.

Dina Mehta, a blogger present at the event, felt that people would eventually choose the cause they can identify with. “You have to find a certain set of influencers, who may be able to take action. Twitter’s a great place to spread awareness about issues, but not necessary stimulate them into action,” she said.

Chandni Parekh, a social psychologist who works with FundACause, which connects people in need of funds with those who would like to help, opined thattweets need to become more interesting. “Salman Khan recently tweeted, ‘Mere saath bone marrow donate nahin kiya toh kya kiya!’ which I thought was spot on given the huge following that he has.

Harish Iyer, a social activist, agreed, saying that institutions need to ‘humanise’ their tweets and make them more interesting. “The change may not be measurable, but social media can be a great accelerator,” he said.


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