Social media shaping young 'digital natives'
Nearly 1.5 crore young "digital natives", set to cast their first vote in the seven-phase election starting from April 11, are busy scouting through candidates' social media profiles to check on their backgrounds and their contribution towards the society.
The digitally-savvy young voters aged 18-19, armed with cheap data plans on their smartphones, are participating in online debates on issues like women safety, unemployment, economic stress and national security, expressing their viewpoints on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as observing reactions from politicians on their handles and Pages.
"My vote decision will be based on how the candidates have behaved in the public eye till date.
"Their criminal and corruption records, educational backgrounds and occupational experiences are things that I am interested to know about," said an excited Ankita Mishra, an 18-year old advertising student from Pune who will cast her vote for the first time.
"Educational background of the candidate is the key. If the minimum requirement to get a decent job in India is at least a post-graduate degree and additional work experience, then why should the job of being the leader be given out so easily?" she asked.
As elections inch closer, discussed about the contesting candidates have intensified on social media and other online public forums.
"I do keep myself updated with the popular opinion. I also regularly check the polls and campaigns," Mishra added.
Vishesh Jain, a 19-year-old who just returned to India after completing his higher education in the UK and now lives in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, said the youth have to cast their ballot to elect best leaders.
"I have grown up listening to the catch-phrase 'one vote can make the difference'. My decision will be based on Indian politicians' presence on social media, especially Twitter," said Jain.
"I am reading and expressing my opinion on social media handles, keeping tabs on trending election-related hashtags and polls and actively engaging in discussions and polls online," he added.
Not only is the Internet helping first-time voters know about their leaders, it is also helping them understand how and where to start from.
Arjun Parashar, an 18-year old journalism student from Mumbai, said he is trying not to be affected by fake news spreading on social media.
"Even though social networking platforms give us an overview of the candidates, my voting choice is personal and I will wait till the end to decide who I should finally choose," Parashar told IANS.
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