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Posted at: Jan 7, 2018, 1:34 AM; last updated: Jan 7, 2018, 1:34 AM (IST)BOOK REVIEW: INDIA SOCIAL BY ANKIT LAL.

Revolutions through social media

Jayanti Roy

We are accustomed to academic writings and books by Indians, on India which are apologetic about their Indianness, have a submissive tone, shoddy citations and a detailed glossary at the end explaining each Hindi word used in the text. India Social, in its indigenous content, approach and tone reflects a subtle confidence, comfort and poise which is rare in our academic circles. It seems to be an indication that young Indians like the book’s author Ankit Lal, are growing secure in their own capabilities. 

The book talks of the many recent events in India where social media has played a salient and defining role in myriad domains of politics, citizenship, mitigation of natural disaster impacts and bringing in social change. The campaign of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), vigorously run on all social media platforms, achieved multiple goals of garnering support, recruiting volunteers, getting donations, motivating lakhs of followers as well as showing the opponents in poor light. The author, a computer engineer, has been behind the whole whirlwind managing social media, first for the India Against Corrouption (IAC) and then for AAP. There is a chapter on Narendra Modi’s 2014 campaign, too, where the BJP grabbed the attention of social media-savvy younger generation through exploiting its pervasive reach, which ultimately turned into votes.

It is heartening to note how so many ordinary Indians used social media to assert what they thought was good for the country, to pressurise government to bring new laws, to bring positive change or to facilitate the safety of fellow citizens during disasters. Such instances enhance our faith in the goodness of our people which we are usually very quick to negate. 

The chapters on politics are richly written with lots of information and inputs. Several screen shots have been included in the text to substantiate the points.  The tone of the book is neither authoritative nor seriously academic but refreshingly professional and matter-of-fact. Another praiseworthy feature of the book is its jargon-free language. Though some technical aspects like net neutrality have been discussed, but the author has explained the nuances wherever necessary or if a legal section has been mentioned, it is immediately followed by a simple definition. This helps the reader in catching the spirit of the discussion without getting caught up in technicalities. A chapter on how social media has broken the barriers of language, education, culture, location and has empowered every citizen to assert and influence could have been quite interesting.

The book should find its place on the tables of historians, sociologists, media experts and all those who want to reap benefits of a strong social media presence.  It is equally interesting for people who have a natural curiosity about the dynamics of a huge country like ours and are keen to understand how the substantial force of social media can be used both ways — in uniting communities across insurmountable barriers or in creating unbridgeable fissures in the society. The book tells us that it is for us to decide which way we want it to exert.

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