The austerity drive is on! Yes by now, we all know that our ministers are travelling economy class to set an example
for us mere mortals, in these times of economic recession. So when a minister and that too an erudite one, decides to use twitter to express his point of view on this topic, it snowballs into a crisis. This is a classic example of the growing influence of social media in our lives. Here was a minister, writing away on his personal twitter account, in less than 140 words his jocular take on the entire topic and before he knew it, the media was on it, the parliament was in uproar, and editorials were being dished out faster than you could change channels. Tharoor’s unfortunate remark, that he would travel “cattle class in solidarity with all our holy cows”, had come a day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi travelled by economy class in a flight to Mumbai to set an example for the party to follow austerity measures that could help the government redirect funds for welfare programmes in the wake of deficient rains.
What however interests me is how increasingly social media is changing our lives. For one thing, journalists have more sources to get stories for an ever hungry media. Then again everything you write, becomes available for the world to see, comment on and build opinions. dangerous because it can swing public opinion in seconds, if you are a public figure. The trick therefore lies in not just using social media but knowing how to use it and how to leverage it to a maximum. A perfect example would be Obama’s election win, which I believe was predominantly won on the web.
So even though Minister Tharoor has apologized, “It’s a silly expression but meant no disrespect to economy travellers, only to airlines for herding us in like cattle. Many have misunderstood… To those hurt by the belief that my repeating the phrase showed contempt: sorry”, this controversy has not yet died down. The worrisome news is that for a government which came to power on the mandate of the common man ( who travels economy or lives below the poverty line) this is sensitive territory.
The good news for us social media enthusiasts is that India is tweeting.