Social Media: Moving from Passive Consumers to Active Creators– The Bengal Experience

From March 1st -4th,2021 a small team of three from the MBSNS visited a trade union of landless labourers and marginal farmers based in West Bengal to conduct a 4 day social media content creation workshop with activists and young people from their union. Special thanks to Anuradha di and Swapan da for inviting us in the first place, Ishita, Shovan, Mehendi and Tapojay for the great co-facilitation and hospitality and of course all our new friends at PBKMS. 

On Day 1, there were 15 participants spanning ages 16-60. It was inspiring to see that young people from the union were accompanied by 2-3 older/more experienced workers who were determined to learn newer ways of engaging with people. Tula, one of the older women karykartas who stayed till the end of the workshop, and perhaps struggled more than the young people with the new technology, said, “It is crucial we change our ways of bringing people together. We have been organising workers on the ground for the last 30 years and that’s great. But as the times change, we need to update our methods as well.” Abu, a young participant said, “Social media is where many important conversations about the world are happening. It is where many of my friends and I form our opinions. We need to learn, as an organisation how to intervene in these conversations in effective ways.”

Since this workshop was happening right before Bengal elections, it was decided to create some content to comment on the elections. However, we soon realised that we would want to use social media to initiate and impact conversations beyond the immediate elections. Thus, the participants choose a wide range of topics, making videos on a myriads of topics including: Holi, Ambedkar Jayanti, Bengali New Year, electoral turncoats, corruption, climate change, deforestation, ration, pension, inflation, NREGA, there were rich discussions and reflections on the power of social media and the importance of progressive forces/marginalised voices harnessing this power. Some have been shared below:

We live in a world where dominant forces control the content we consume– content that is usually created by and for dominant communities, content that systematically preys on young minds and sows seeds of hatred, and inequality in us. One way to counter this is to have marginalised communities take control of the cultural narrative, by using social media to build and shape opinions, ideas, discourse and eventually, cultures.

Social change work, which is attracting less youth, requires creative tasks such as social media content creation. It can be one of the ways to both use talents of the young and also retain their interest.

The more we work with social media, the more we are convinced that it’s time to truly leverage the empowering capacity of social media. It’s time to let our youth, engaging in people’s movements, take over the critical work of creating and shaping our narratives, to move from being passive consumers of content to being active creators… one video and one post at a time 🙂

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