Social Media and Effective Campaigns

Social media suffers from a disease of “Recency Bias” where the major chunk engages themselves to the latest fad which carries on for some days only to be replaced by another. Be it memes, news or any activity. There is nothing wrong with memes or news but campaigns or activities have a very short attention span which renders the whole activity, unsustainable. How can we think long term, to create meaningful impact?

Every year, many days are associated and dedicated to mother earth, its biodiversity, nature and wildlife. As an example, June 5 is celebrated as World Environment Day. In the weeks immediately preceding and succeeding June 5, there is much clamor on roads and social media streets on the urgency of adopting environment-friendly lifestyle for a cleaner, livable tomorrow. Ranging from collective action such as beach cleaning across the shores of Western Ghats, river front cleaning across the Ganga and other polluted rivers to action at the individual level including renouncement of disposable sanitary pads for reusable menstrual cups, we see it all. Being the global host of World Environment Day in 2018, the distress calls that rang through the Facebook newsfeeds and government awareness programs in India for expediting action were more urgent and spanned a few weeks more than the usual.

In a bid to encourage the public to become environment-conscious, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said: “If each and every one of us does at least one green good deed daily towards our Green Social Responsibility, there will be billions of green good deeds daily on the planet.” Inspired by such adages and green campaigns, most of us, if not all, tried to do our bit towards conserving nature in its original form.

Doing one green good deed daily is a great idea, but the fact of the matter is that, Indians particularly need more awareness about the problems (why would a country where 23% of people live below Rs.90 per day pay much attention to plastic pollution?). A major chunk of the Indian population don’t even consider plastic pollution as a problem, so how can we incentivize them to act on it?

Talking about urban youth, our emotions are swayed by the social media feeds which goes on till the effects of World Environment Day programs and Facebook posts, then it wanes off slowly just as the government spearheaded efforts at environment conservation lost momentum and finally got swept under the carpet till another June 5. We should rather look for a change which incentivizes the public by themselves, without any external pressure. Only then, meaningful, sustainable and long term changes we can observe.

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