Mumbai has always been Mumbai. The city of dreams never slept (what an irony!), and it still never sleeps. Local trains were the lifeline of the city, and they remain so even now. People were always in a hurry, and they still are. In short, times have changed, but Mumbai and its famous spirit have remained the same.
There is one significant change that has taken place though — the evolution of social media. Gratefully, this change has been welcomed by almost everyone. Social media has firmly established itself as part of our everyday existence, so much so that our daily lives are now incomplete without it. Some may call it overdependence on technology, but, according to me, in one way or another, it has brought about a unique togetherness in the city.
Changing the city
Social media may have been all about interacting with your friends and family when it first started out, but over the years, it has become more about exploring the world, gathering information and coming together as a community. We can see that with Twitter handles that have come up, such as @WeAreMumbai. I started this account to know more about the people of the city I love, and to explore Mumbai with a different Mumbaikar every week. It gradually became a community for people who love their city. People started tagging @WeAreMumbai whenever they needed something — whether it was to find new places to eat at, or in emergency situations, to find donors for patients in need of blood. Also, with accounts such as ‘things2doinmumbai’, newbies in the city have a guide to plan their weekends with the help of pictures on Instagram.
Social media has also helped the city evolve. Today, the Mumbai Police is on Twitter as @MumbaiPolice, paving a new path for safety, and the interaction between Mumbaikars and the police. It allows people to instantly tweet a complaint or ask for help — be it for issues such as breaking traffic rules or misbehaving in local trains.
Starting a dialogue
Remember the #PornBan and the #BeefBan? People across the city, and India, ranted about them on social media. Everyone got a chance to speak both for and against the bans. Social media was abuzz. Many described the bans as an invasion of privacy and an attempt at moral policing. And the result — a dialogue between citizens and members of the government about issues that affect society. That’s the power of social media.
There were also instances in which netizens united and put forth a strong voice, forcing the government to rethink its policy or decision. One such example would be of the net neutrality campaign. India marked a major milestone in digital activism when Internet users bombarded the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with a million emails to ‘Save The Internet’. The ensuing outrage saw several big and small app developers pull out of schemes like Airtel Zero and Internet.org.
All this just makes me believe that social media has changed lives. Yes, there are trolls and, at times, social media can be misused. But that moment, when someone reaches out to you — whether it is to get blood in an emergency, or give details about some place in the city — makes me believe that social media has evolved for the greater good.
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Today, I can guarantee that exploring the city, meeting new people, asking for help or even complaining would be difficult without a social media presence. The feeling of that unique togetherness is the sole reason why I love the evolution of social media in the city that I love — Mumbai.
Karan Joshi goes by @thatdarkcoffee on Twitter.