Use of social media in Manipur: Women lag behind in technological advancement

The headline in a media report of 23 March 2017 says “BJP’s social media campaign in Manipur was a hit”. According to the report, the Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) kicked off a high-pitched social media campaign in Manipur on more than 100 WhatsApp groups, a number of Facebook pages, Twitter handles and Twitter channels. This proves to be true considering the result. Comparatively, in the 2012 state election, the BJP had just 2.1% of the popular vote. In 2017, the BJP’s vote share rose to more than 36%. From less than a 1,000 likes on Facebook to crossing the 30,000 mark. The BJP subsequently formed the alliance government and is the ruling party of the current government in Manipur.

Interestingly, the media report quoted Shivam, a political consultant and member of the BJP’s EMT, and a graduate from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, to have said, “Social media is a powerful tool in shaping conversations. Even if a large part of a state’s population is not on social media and won’t vote for a party based on online posts, the medium helps us in influencing what people are talking about.”

Meanwhile, it is pertinent to note that women are not at the helm of the social media affairs. Most importantly, the older generations. For instance, a young woman voter was quoted in the media report to have stated that the youths in her constituency were active on Facebook. And that they would gather at some friend’s house every evening and someone would read the Facebook posts out loud and discuss them. Obviously, the women were not handling the social media but were the “listeners” and the target for the campaign.

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