The Reduce Crackers campaign, in its third year as a personal expression and effort, has become a way to deal with my restlessness before Diwali. My restlessness to DO SOMETHING at something wrong and unnecessary happening. The first year we made these travelling posters (they travelled across three apartment complexes and six schools in Coimbatore), and took down pledges and names. The year after that I just used a lot of pathos in my Facebook statuses and Whatsapp messages. I don’t know about the impact of it all, but the restlessness to reduce crackers is back again. And I need to deal with it.
Social media is obviously my first outlet to realise this restlessness. But the problem with social media campaigns and causes is that it is particularly suited to preaching to the choir. The filters you can apply to your news feed and friend lists can work very easily and very well as echo chambers. Where, then, is the space for transformation? One way to it is definitely by expressing solidarity with those that work with you. The voices need to seem louder and more cohesive.
Another way is to, like Guy Kawasaki said on his blog, reach out to those that are sitting on the fence rather than those that are holding tightly to the opposite pole.
A third way might be found in the hope that we all have at least some friends and acquaintances who do not share similar environments (socially or on social media). Our voice, then, carries a new message for them that they might not have heard otherwise.
But all in all, there really is only so much that social media can do. The sooner we realise that change is to be made on the streets rather than on screens, the better we rid ourselves of illusions of having made a difference. And if I may say so, getting used to validation through the language of social media, makes it doubly hard to get out there and make conversation with someone who does not share your backgrounds and preferences. Doubly hard, but doubly important too.
What am I going to do? How am I going to act on these realisations?
1. Speak to my family *cringe cringe* and the kids in whose good books I am — but without the tone of a moralistically nagging aunty. (Because if I were to take that stand, there’s no end to which I can be criticised on my hypocrisies. Lets please not talk about that?)
2. Posters in colleges? I don’t know, the boards are already crowded with uninteresting things that bleed their uninterestingness onto each other. Besides, attention-grabbing, behaviour-changing graphic design isn’t my strongest point. We still made this. But I might try harder — we have a Fine Arts society in AUD called FAGS. 😀
3. The idea with the strongest potential, though, is to call on the entire #SwachhBharat machine — the government, celebrities, commentators, and advocates — to see how simply the action of reducing crackers works with their campaign! As far as simplicity, ease, and effectiveness go, this is the best action we have to reach a cleaner India (or to prevent a dirty India). Working on this idea in Delhi, a city new and too big to me, seems daunting… but we’ll have to find the courage and an executable strategy.
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These were just some random thoughts on social media, Diwali, and my existential crisis. If something struck a chord with you, or found a shared node on some previous mental path you took, I’d really be glad to know. Leave a comment, and I hope you have a Happy Diwali. 🙂