A new application on social media platform Facebook that is designed to get voters to discuss and eventually get excited and motivated enough to vote by putting peer pressure has been launched, ahead of the 2014 general election.
Called Register to Vote, the feature requires one to log into his/her Facebook page, then go to the Timeline and move to the drop-down menu of Life Event, then Travel and Experiences which leads to Register to Vote.
The tool is aimed to generate peer pressure, by which users who display it on their pages would then arouse interest among their Facebook friends, which would spark off a conversation on voting and elections. It aspires to encourage and cajole users to go out and actually vote on election day.
"This initiative is aimed at deepening the civic engagement of Facebook users," says a company representative. As a beginning, users can share status updates and individual stories on voter registration by posting it on their Timelines.
Studies and surveys have reported that people spend 25 per cent of their time online on social media sites. Evidence of the impact was visible during the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement, which started in this city but spread through the country.
While this would be a first of its kind engagement for Facebook in India, it has already implemented this before in America and Australia, during the Presidential elections in 2012 and the federal elections in 2013, respectively.
In Australia, to ensure greater youth enrolment in the electoral rolls, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) tied up with Facebook through its Youth Votes Matter app. In the US, users talked about preferences of candidates on their profiles on Facebook, which led to pre-poll surveys on voting choices. They also used the I Voted app after the election, indicating whom they voted for. Washington state took online enrolment a step further by allowing voters to formally register to vote via Facebook.
While India (where only 12 per cent of the population has access to the internet) has a long way to go, the 2014 election would mark a departure from earlier ones. All stakeholders recognise the power of social media and its role in these polls, where 120 million first-time voters above the age of 18 will be taking part.
Political groupings, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, are hiring specialised agencies to manage and handle their social media presence. The Congress has even launched Khidkee, an initiative similar to Facebook, albeit for its own party cadres, to log in and discuss issues.
While Facebook app Register to Vote is in its initial stages, more features could be added as the 2014 election draws near.