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GUEST COLUMN: Deciphering social media Humanology during pandemic

Understanding how Netizens turned into influencers overnight to save lives.

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New Delhi: Before 2020, if any individual ever put a requirement about a hospital or medicines on their social media timeline, the only people to respond to those posts would be their friends and professional relations. It was highly unlikely if an unknown (or unconnected) individual jumped in to respond or help.

However, the second wave of Covid-19 broke this myth. When someone posted an SOS message, the entire community, irrespective of whether they were connected or not, jumped in to help them. Within minutes, the seeker had the list of hospitals to dial in, vendors for an oxygen cylinder, masks, sanitisers, vials, doctors, and home remedies.

As the days went by, the number of these SOS turned into thousands flooding the timelines. There was a barrage of WhatsApp messages, Twitter posts, Insta Stories, Posts, and others sharing the names & contacts of the verified vendors/places of these above-mentioned amenities created by people who are not content creators.

The content creators and influencers played their roles. Technology enthusiasts created live blogs, tools that maintained the real-time verified status of the hospitals, doctors, and other necessities on the social media accounts for free of cost. Once an SOS query was answered there was a heart-warming response. The scenario reflected the age-old proverb - ‘Neki Kar, Dariya Mein dal’ (Be Discreet with your Kindness).

And it was not just a common man who used this medium, several hospitals and institutions used the social platforms to update their daily/hourly status and raise SOS to the government.

So, what changed in 2021? Why did people become so proactive on social media to help each other? What did they get out of this? Before we dig deep into this psychographic analysis of this question, let us understand the behaviour of most people on social media, especially who they engage with & how they do it.

Social media has always been like a digital mohalla (neighbourhood) where one lives with fast friends, daily acquaintances, casual acquaintances, professional acquaintances, and dormant relations. On most occasions, our deepest engagements are with either fast friends or professional connections. However, with everyone else, this relationship of engagement is very casual.

Stronger Together!

People realised that they were probably facing the worst ever humanitarian crisis and the only chance to survive this was through fighting it together. Now they could not go outside physically to help them, so the only option was to help digitally. This meant they could order medicines, find doctors, connect with hospitals, ambulances, and others.

Online Connection to on-ground Solution!

Once helping each other became a duty for responsible netizens, they started realising the power of social media and connections. They moved a step beyond just sharing the jokes and news and saw that they were part of the real action where lives mattered. Their small contribution can help someone. A simple idea that even if an existing connection could save one single life, it would be worth it.

CONTENTment

It gave them a lot of peace and satisfaction as they were able to help each other. Sharing is caring! They had a platform to express happiness or displeasure about the situation where they will not be judged. This feature has always been there and people used it excessively during the pandemic. The affected shared their challenges & remedies; the ones who suffered losses shared their thoughts & displeasure about the situation and the ones who were safe were able to take learnings from the affected ones.

Together We Win!

Together these voices collaborated and were able to gather domestic and global attention. They believed that they were a part of a movement where people will read/hear/see their plight and chip in to help. And finally, people were able to seek genuine responses that mattered. They were turning out to be influencers aka god’s light for many others. This user-generated response mechanism created a strong trust in their mind for the platform and engaged them even further to the mediums.

A big reason for this massive shift in behaviour was the need of people at large, especially when India’s entire healthcare system was under immense pressure.

However, there was also a flip side to it. It led to a lot of misinformation also wherein information about several untested medications was also making rounds on social media which could easily lead to reputation damage for a long time.

As a digital marketer, I believe in the semantics of social media platforms and connections. This shift is going to stay, social media as a social support platform is a colossal example of changing human behaviour & technology.

(Jankana Kaul is CEO, Natter. The views expressed in the column are personal and Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to them.)

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