In what might be seen as a departure from the quintessential sombreness generally associated with official government communication, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) is using memes on election awareness via Instagram to attract the young population. The tongue-in-cheek campaign has already garnered considerable attention, and a number of memes are going viral as well.
While the Election Commission of India is already using mainstream media to spread awareness on elections, PIB resorted to using memes to strengthen its connect with the youth. This seems to be reaping dividends, as thanks to the intriguing memes, PIB now has the fastest growing Instagram handles among all government departments. “We are using this method for the first time and going forward we might use them for other issue-based campaigns too,” Gaurav Khare, deputy director, social media, PIB, told FE, adding, “We make sure that even though the content is relatively light, constitutional correctness is maintained throughout.”
Among other things, election awareness memes by the PIB are playing on snippets from famous Bollywood scenes. These posts comprise popular and easily identifiable references with superstars imploring citizens to exercise their democratic right. Apart from Bollywood, PIB’s eight-member social media team is also engaging with other contemporary cinematic trends such as Avengers and Game of Thrones. The move is more significant, with about 45 million new citizens enrolling to caste their vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Instagram is owned by Facebook and people between 18 and 24 years comprise the bulk of its users.
In an age of deep internet penetration and dwindling attention spans, memes are proving to be a light and effective medium for communication. The term ‘meme’ was first introduced by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, to elucidate the intra-cultural propagation of ideas and idiosyncrasies. While Dawkins explained meme as something that spreads like a virus, it is, indeed, interesting to see memes going viral on the internet.