India is going to witness General Elections in the year 2014 and youth will play a major role. Besides this time social media – the growing medium for the common man in the country – will also play a major role. Political parties in India are aware of this and hence the growing love for the medium, especially as these are majorly dominated by the young.
Facebook, the most popular social network in the country with more than 82 million monthly active users also wants to tap the big event and hence has recently launched a new feature – “Register To Vote” in its Life Event section underneath Travel and Experiences feature. The format is like any other life event with the focus on being registered as a voter.
Ankhi Das, Director, Public Policy, Facebook India thinks that the new feature will create increased awareness of the voter registration process. She further adds that,
“We have seen the power of friends, and social sharing helps rally people around causes, build communities and increases participation. The launch of the Register to Vote feature for Facebook’s Indian users will create increased awareness of the voter registration process and influence a higher percentage of people to register to vote.”
The new addition to Facebook is an effort to encourage more Indian citizens to vote in the upcoming elections. Ankhi also expects that the new change will produce grassroots momentum and engagement in the country.
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But HOW will the change happen with a mere addition of a new Feature?
Adding a new feature in Facebook is relevant considering the times in the country but stating that it will produce grassroots momentum and engagement in the country, is a farfetched claim by Facebook. Besides, I fail to understand how Facebook is claiming that with the introduction of a simple feature, it will influence a higher percentage of people to register to vote.
Social media is a growing medium in the country and Facebook is playing a big role. Today the political parties who had initially decided to stay away and control social networks, are now not only creating presence but attending workshops on how to connect and engage with the youth. But that doesn’t mean social media or for that matter Facebook will influence a higher percentage of people to register to vote.
Social media today in our country is being seen as a platform for engaging in debate and controversies by political parties. Today political parties are creating presence to lure the youth but at the same time the medium has also turned into a battlefield between rival parties, the recent fight between BJP and Congress party on social media is an apt example.
Even if Facebook users start using the feature, which is anyway a small UI update, then there might be a bit of awareness but then how many users are aware of this feature to produce grassroots momentum and engagement in the country. Just by adding a life event and expecting my friends to do the same is a big ask, voting is a personal right and is driven by conscience.
The statements from Ankhi Das gives a feeling as if Facebook has tied up with the Election Commission in the country and have made a provision for its users to vote for parties’ right from the social network itself. Though it might be possible one day but it won’t happen anytime soon.
Right now social media is just another medium to promote and debate. It could be very useful also as a last minute campaign tool when the offline campaigning stops 48 hours before the voting like we recently saw in the case of the Punjab University students. So Facebook, social media still isn’t a medium that will drive voters to the polling booths in India and definitely not by the mere introduction of your “Register to Vote” feature.