The first, and most impactful thing that the Social Surfing workshop introduced us to was numbers. Numbers acquired on social media are a treasure trove of information, and more importantly, quantifiable data with scores of policy avenues. As the workshop showed, social media isn’t just about selfies and the gratification of egos. It’s about impact, connections, and reclaiming of safe spaces, both real and virtual.
Our generation lives in an interesting time- while on one hand, we are much more aware of the dangers surrounding us, on the other, we are also opening up to new experiences. This paradigm is an unknown territory, and we stumble. It’s difficult to navigate a world that’s still building itself, and that’s where the workshop succeeded in disseminating information. The smallest, most innocuous changes in social media habits can contribute to a safer experience, and the succinct, interactive format of the workshop made sure that these pointers weren’t just told, they were shown.
As a policy student, two things excite me- data, and the possibility of making cohesive, concrete change. Social media is, at this moment, the most incredible platform for the same. Data collection, especially in a developing country like India, is difficult because of various hindrances, and these are augmented by the red-tapiesm surrounding us. Social media, as the aforementioned numbers prove, can be harnessed as an incredible source of this data. It’s accessible, easily quantifiable, and aggregates something that has confounded policymakers till now- the depth, breadth, and expanse of human expression.
This leads to social change through social media. The workshop had an extremely fun activity that involved us in the creation of social media campaigns. The idea of using social media to invoke social reactions isn’t a new one. However, the workshop tackled the one major weak spot of such campaigns, that is, the propensity to weaken with time. It explained the various components of a successful campaign to us, and instead of pointing to where the previous attempts went wrong, it encouraged us to create innovative ways to make our campaigns sustainable. As policymakers, this was an exciting opportunity because it allowed us to implement theoretical knowledge in a real life situation.
This initiative’s focus on a gendered approach to social media security, especially on the idea of ‘counter speech’, was fascinating. It’s a false belief of many people that the virtual world is far removed from the ‘real one’. Today, these worlds merge, and the activities seen in one have direct implications on the other. Using social media to socialize people to help them understand the processes of privilege, and how to see through layers of negative perceptions isn’t just innovation. It’s the need of the hour.
The fact that the Centre for Social Research is taking the initiative to approach the problem by directly reaching down to students through the #SocialSurfing workshops is very encouraging, and I’m glad I had an opportunity to be a part of the same.
About the Author
“Harnidh Kaur is currently pursuing Masters in Public Policy at St. Xavier’s Institute in Mumbai.”
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