The Emerging Role of Social Media in Pakistani Politics
Technology has changed how people currently operate and interact. Specifically, technological advancements have led to the establishment of social media platforms where people virtually meet, communicate, share ideas and experiences and even access news and events occurring in different parts of the world (Karatzogianni, 2009).
Social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr etc (Aday, et al. 2010). Contemporarily, social media has been the basis of everyday life. Millions of people currently access social media platforms. Consequently, Khan, & Shabaz, (2015) agree that social media has become the center for social, political and even corporate strategizing. Although social media is used more for marketing and advertising, it is currently the basis for politicians to sell their ideology to masses in the flick of a second (Karamat & Farooq, 2016). Currently, politicians seek the support of masses through social networking (Kugelman, 2012).
Social media platforms give them access to the online community that is made up of millions of members. Pakistan is one of the nations where the utility of social networking is growing everyday especially in light with political activity. This makes it worth to study the emerging role of social media in politics using the country as a case.
Traditionally, people had to wait for newspapers, TV or radio to access news. Telephones could also be used to communicate. However, the only problem was the time-element of the entire process. Apart from being costly, the process of interacting, communicating and accessing news could take relatively long.
The advent of information technology has changed the game though. Through information technologies social media was born. The advent of social media was a game changer. People are currently virtually connected by the world everywhere (Karamat & Farooq, 2016). The Smartphone made things even easier because users can now interact, share experiences and even communicate wherever they are whenever they need to. Networking has been made easier because it is easy to create and develop links among different people regardless of where they are on the planet.
The most renowned social media sites are Facebook (arguably the most famous), Twitter and YouTube (Amjad, 2012). These sites, among others, have millions of users. Users interact, share idea, content and experiences virtually in a flick of a second. Users are practically connected which creates a network of people (Mansell, 2004). The flow of information and ideas is therefore instantaneous and accessible anywhere anytime.
Political activism through social media platforms is still evolving as politicians and political parties devise new strategies to ensure massive support and following from the users. Political activism has become so common on social media that a politician who does not utilize it is almost at the verge of losing (Karamat & Farooq, 2016).
Pakistan happens to be the second biggest Muslim country in terms of population. It has over 180 million Muslims. Political activism in the country began as late as 2007 in the wake of the Arab Spring, a political wave in Arab countries meant to oust existing governments due to non-performance and corruption (Martin, 2011). Nevertheless, the internet first made an appearance in the country in 1995. In Asia, Kugelman, (2012) notes that; Pakistani is the 8th highest internet using countries according to the Internet World Statistics.
The internet literate public and youths are the most users of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs in the country. By 2010 over 20 million Pakistanis were using the internet from different purposes (Eijaz, 2013). Literacy in the country is the major determinant of internet dispersal, utility and penetration in the country due to the general use of English as the official internet language (Martin, 2011).
Henceforth, this study seeks to determine the emerging role of social media in the politics of the country. In other words, it is imperative to determine how social media is used politically and the purpose it achieves for the politicians and their associated parties.
There is an ever growing interest among researchers to investigate the influence that social media has on the social, economic and political aspects of life. According to Karamat & Farooq, (2016) politics is a dynamic field especially in a country such as Pakistan where political activity has been marred with ethnic and religious clashes.
Therefore, the study is meant to shed light on how social media influences politics in Pakistani. It is of much interest to determine the emerging role of social networking in politics (Kahn & Kellner, 2004). Social media platforms were initially intended for entertainment purposes including sharing experiences through virtual interactions (Amjad, 2012). However, it is interesting that the focus is almost entirely shifting to utilize these platforms as strategic bases. As noted before, social media has majorly been used for marketing and advertising purposes to enhance consumer bases.
However, Khan, & Shabaz, (2015) assert that politics nowadays require a massive following and support. Agreeably, Hamilton, (2011) believes that it is as though social media has just opened up the channel to access the support and massive following needed to be successful politically. Pakistani makes a good case of a country whose political activity is characterized by the strategic use of social networking (Eijaz, 2013). Hence, to determine how social media platforms for social networking influences political activity in Pakistan, the researcher will seek to answer the following question:
How do politicians and political parties use social networking to influence political activity and what purpose do social media platforms play in Pakistani politics?
To facilitate the answering of this study question, the researcher also seeks to achieve a number of specific objectives. These include:
To determine the prevalence of using social media platforms by Pakistani politicians and political parties. To establish the influence that social media has on political activity in Pakistan. To identify the different strategies and ways through which politicians and political parties use different social media platforms to enhance support and following of the masses.
This study, despite being descriptive in nature, requires a case study design complemented by scrutinizing research. Pakistani is the case country and all information related to the study question will be retrieved with respect to the country. Case studies are more focused and allow an in-depth understanding of phenomena that is based on actual first-hand information (Zikmund, et al, 2013). Unlike a sweeping statistical survey, case studies allow the researcher to establish the most relevant information that directly answers the research question (Strang, 2015).
Scrutinizing research compliments case studies because it gives the researcher a chance to examine, monitor and even interact with subjects to retrieve research data (Lockesh, 2006). For instance, in this case, the researcher can visit social media platforms and observe political activism in Pakistani through press releases, official websites, social media pages, groups, videos etc. This is the best way to determine the role of social media and networking in Pakistani politics.
The researcher anticipates that the study will uncover the influences that social media networking has on political activity in Pakistan. The results of the study will be disseminated through the Electronic Media and Politics Journal. The journal is used by scholars to discuss and analyze the relationship between electronic media and politics. The researcher therefore expects that the study will help identify how politicians and political parties utilize social networking and the effect it has on the country’s politics (Chadwick, 2009). It is imperative to establish the emerging role of social media on politics because it is a rarely studied field.
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