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Social Media in Sri lanka politics

Power, Politics, Society: explained by many academics & scholars in different ways. It varies from Idealist to Realist to Identity to Marxist & to Globalist! Concepts examined by different paradigms. History created remarkable associations of nations. From League of Nations to the United Nations, entities were established by nations on Global, International & regional levels.  All these were created by the States; we rather call them the Heads of States, where the citizen’s involvement is minimum. Today, general public has more decision power is politics via Social Media.  Then how big Social Media? When did it all start?

The origins of social media go far deeper than we can imagine, though it came like a new trend. The earliest method of communication across great distance was “Postal Letters”. In 1972, the telegraph was invented while the telephone & the radio were invented in 1890 and 1891 respectively. Technology started to change rapidly in 20th century. With the birth of first two computers in 1940s, scientists & engineered began to work on creating network between the computer, which invented “Internet”. From the earliest form of internet such as “Compuserve” to primitive forms of email, technology developed further. The first identifiable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997. From year 2000 networks like MySpace & LinkedIn gained prominence while Photobucket and Flickr facilitated online photo sharing. YouTube which came out in 2005, created an entirely new media for people to communicate and share with each other. Facebook & Twitter made a immersive change in people’s life style after 2006, while we can add many more to the social media family namely Tumblr, Spotify, Foursquare and Pinterest etc. Today, there is a marvelous collection of social networking sites, & the most convenient thing is that many of them allow cross-posting. This allows users to reach mass. Under these circumstances, Social Media is playing a major role in National & international politics.

In Sri Lanka, for the majority the concept of social media is kind of a new trend & the involvement of social media to national politics isn’t going too far. The first heavy wave of social media political campaign emerged at the final stage of the war & even during the post-war period. In globalized world, people are no longer defined only by their ethnic or national origin. Diaspora communities have become more prominent, where these groups are actively involving in homeland politics. The most inextricable move is that they often create a global picture against the government s of their “home” states. Social media plays a massive role in this case.  This is what we refer as the long-distance nationalism & this form of political engagement can be considered a subset of the “transnational political practices” of migrant communities. This was very clear during the war time in Sri Lanka. The former Sri Lankan government was under a tremendous pressure especially on social media which brought the attention of highly empowered international entities & regimes over the alleged war crimes. Dr Chris Nonis the former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom recently stunned the world stating that the Tamil diaspora is carrying a “Proxy propaganda war” against the Sri Lankan government. His reply to the international community went viral on social media creating a phenomenal riposte.
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The second biggest wave of social media campaign started along with the 2010 presidential election. Establishing the brands of SF to MR & propagating their principle & mandate and mudslinging were very much interactive n SM during this period. Users created their own communities, shared their thoughts & opinions, posted their own videos & pictures, created their own funny corners for both sides & even conducted their own surveys on SM for their predictions.  Things got more progressive during the presidential election of 2015. Some may already considered this can be the first ever cyber election in Sri Lanka. Executive Presidency, Constitutional reforms, Good governance, corruptions, nepotism, judicial systems, Media freedom & human rights were the main themes highlighted & discussed in social media. This year’s presidential election was a historical as we witnessed an extraordinary use of social media by both candidates as well as by the youth. This became a growing power of youth in the country. When the polls were closed, the whole country went calm & streets went calm. However, the social media was full of rumors & predictions while the #tag of #presPollSL was been used thousand times. When MY3 was the emerging popularity & the topic in social media, MR campaigned mostly on traditional media & even tried attacking the social media advertising on traditional media. These were also been cartooned many times;
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Who were the social media presidents in 2010 & 2015? Both are the common candidates, Sarath Fonseka & Maithripala Sirisena. However, MR’s traditional campaign took-over SF’s social media popularity. By 2015, things have changed drastically. Power & the usage of social media, especially by the youth with new votes were not able to take as a simple thing. Below stats are based on the survey I extracted from Daily FT during the last 2 weeks of the presidential election campaign on social media.
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#IVotedSL a trilingual campaign launched by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence encourage citizens to cast their votes. For many youth, it was the SM, the first tune in channel to the last updates & it was just a matter of spelling their question on a browser, which gave them the 360 degree view of the subject matter. Social media also gave an opportunity to MR even after his defeat to reach his mass & convey his messages & reactions to both positive & negative comments spreading around him.
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However, things in favor of MY3 changed again on social media grounds, when the president released a statement after few weeks after his victory claiming that the misleading news circulating on his social media sites. Both positive & negative, mudslinging & aspirational news pervaded the social media from both parties for & against each other. However it still keeps as media to communicate a mass with both true &false information supported by both parties in public. Can the social media be the new concept of emerging digital democracy in future? Answer is too tricky. Since it sees no end as long as the human race exist on planet, from presidential elections to 100 day plan to next government elections to whatever comes next…Social Media & the politics will always be interlinked.However the question remains on what is the mindful ways to use the social media? Can everything be accepted? Can anything be shared? Can anything be argued? I have noticed significant percentage of information available & shared on social media on Sri Lankan politics are misleading. I have noticed more users been reactive rather than active. Keep in mind to think & re-think whether it is true, it is necessary & it is the kind to post, share or comment on your social media & have fun!schbasci

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Madhusha Guruge

International relationship enthusiast

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  • I would like to discuss more about this topic as this subject directly has been involved to my Masters project. Please advise me your email address or any form of communication method for further discussions.

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