Social Media Developments in Pakistan
The exchange of news and opinions is more convenient than ever before due to the social media breakthrough. The world now is a global village having no geographical, cultural or even linguistic boundaries.
Social media is strongly influencing international relations. Today international influence is as easy as few clicks of a mouse. Anybody with a camera and basic knowledge of internet; blogging and other social media tools can reach out to global audiences. Hence, social media has emerged out as an important tool which can shape history and it, consequently, deserves closer attention.
A new debate has only just begun which focuses upon the power of social media and the impact it can have on humanity. Social media has started to play an exciting and long-lasting role in our lives, and it’s only a matter of time when it will reveal its true powerful nature. According to Clay Shirky, an American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies,
“Social media have become coordinating tools for nearly all the world’s political movements.”
Recently these tools were utilized by masses to overthrow Tunisia’s president and to raise public voice in Egypt.
According to Jared Cohen, Director Google Ideas,
“Ten years ago, the number of people who had access to the Internet was 361 million; today it’s two billion. In the year 2000, (only) 300,000 people in Pakistan were using cell phones; today it’s 100 million. You can’t say technology doesn’t matter.”
Reportedly, there are over 20 million internet users and three million bloggers in Pakistan. With over four million Pakistani users on Facebook, Pakistan is ranked 26th in the world. The internet and mobile penetration rates in the country are 23.42% and 60.4% respectively. Considering these statistics, technology and ultimately, social media can shape the future of the country.
Facebook has particularly captured the interest of young Pakistanis; it is an ideal tool for interaction in a country where cross-gender communication is still not commonly accepted. However, it should be noticed that Facebook’s influence and popularity is not limited to Pakistan. The website allows young Pakistanis to connect with young people from all across the world as it is the world’s most popular social networking website. It is said that
“if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated country in the world,”
behind China and India.
Facebook allows users to create personal profiles, share personal information such as interests and education and work details, upload photos and connect with friends. With an average number of 130 friends, about 400 million users log in at Facebook every day. Users also connect through groups and pages. An average user is connected with 80 groups or pages or both.
With over 250 million photos uploaded daily on Facebook, the social networking website provides an ideal tool of citizen journalism for masses, along with the reach to a wider audience. Its events, groups and pages can be effectively utilized to mobilize and organize protests. It revolutionizes the concept of “protests”, particularly for African and South Asian countries where the concept of “peaceful protests” is somewhat non-existent due to poor legal infrastructure.
According to social media experts, Facebook undoubtedly facilitated the lawyers’ movement against General Musharraf which was initiated in March 2007. Whoever said that “history is written by victors,” said that correctly. Facebook and Twitter allowed the protesters to write history as they pleased by shaping a narrative and sticking to it. Consequently, electronic media helped create negative sentiments against the government. While Facebook was the meeting point for cyber activism, Twitter was useful in spreading the word out to broader world. It greatly helped in gaining the attention of the world community.
Over the years, social media has influenced public opinion as Pakistan embraced openness via its growth of private television networks. Recently, after an intense online campaign, Maya Khan was fired from Samaa TV, and her show was also taken off air. The decision was the outcome of a morning show episode in which Maya Khan ‘raided’ public parks in Karachi along with her colleagues. She pinpointed couples, questioned them of their marital status and went as far as running after them when they didn’t want to be recorded on camera. The episode resulted in an online campaign, which was termed as “vicious” by Maya… Vicious or non-vicious, the campaign revealed the power of social media.
Currently, social media tools, particularly social networking sites and blogging, are being utilized extensively to build the popularity of youth icon Imran Khan and his political party.
To put in a nutshell, social media is on the rise, and it has helped young people be heard. With over 63% of Pakistan’s population under the age of 25, social media empowers young people and ensures socio-political transformation in the country.