At this moment, social media remains largely an urban phenomenon talking to the educated, so that is the first limitation. Second, while social media has, time and again in the recent past, proved tha
t it can be used as a medium to inform citizens of a gathering and help mobilize crowds, it is yet to prove that the crowds can be converted into an agent for change. Take the case of Arvind Kejriwal and his anti-Congress election campaigning. Social media made sure that his events were well attended, but the movement could not ensure that the corrupt were not elected.
Currently, at best, the impact of social media is a nuisance to authorities, thanks to it being used to get people together. Social media will become a powerful tool only when the users are educated – which is when it can be used in an attempt inform and influence opinion. Even then, citizens will have to deal with multiple messages on the same subject sent out by various stakeholders. At this point, social media will be no different from other media; it will be reduced to an efficient, low-cost way to get the messages out. If the Congress is panicking at the moment, it is because they haven’t thought this through and have no idea of the limitations of social media.
While it is true that the government has been late to the party, signs are that it is finally waking up to social media citizenry who are talking to the government via the Internet and want results in
hours and not days. The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has formed a team to monitor social media on critical issues and the Congress party wants AICC members to update their resumes with details of Twitter handles, Facebook and YouTube accounts. This may be still a baby step, but it is still a significant leap from its earlier positions of first ignoring and then persecuting users of social media. This is a step in the right direction and shows that at least now, the government is willing to listen to the voices of the people.