By Muhamet Brajshori
Social media is increasingly becoming the means of communication on political-social issues in Kosovo, changing the dynamics of how people interact and organise.
Take the social networking site Facebook, a medium embraced by the middle-age generations as well as Kosovo’s youth. Facebook has gone beyond being only a communication network for keeping in touch with friends and has become a giant discussion forum on the country’s political and social development.
“Facebook facilitates the exchange of ideas, unites people on causes though ‘online activism’, but isn’t much translated into action. Social networks give more space for freedom of speech than other places, so they are becoming platforms for the cultivation of alternative and critical thinking,” commentator Agon Maliqi told SETimes.
Illustrative of this trend is Pimpsons-Kosova, a Facebook series that satires politicians and political initiatives through cartoons. The Pimpsons is widening — and sharpening — the political debate to an entire generation of young voters, providing a much needed consensus, as well as impetus for action.
“The fact that the Pimpsons was launched on Facebook and became so successful is an indication that Facebook is creating a space for expression and communication which was absent before,” Maliqi said.
The opportunity afforded to specific political interests also plays a key role in the spread of social media.
The most successful in utilising social media for political purposes is the Vetvendosje Movement, which initiated protests and other forms of opposition to the ruling parties’ initiatives.
Vetevendosje motivated a broad political base through an active Facebook campaign against the UN’s Six Point Plan for Northern Mitrovica, the Ahtisaari proposal, and another against corruption, called “Against Stealing”. At one gathering Vetevendosje brought together over 95,000 people.
Others, like Faton Deliu, use Twitter instead of Facebook.
“Twitter protects my privacy more than Facebook, and this is the reason why I use it more. In Kosovo, people have Facebook mania. I think this is not something wrong, but using Twitter more would be good as people will be able to find the same information or connection in more or less the same way,” Deliu told SETimes.
Realising that social media is slowly assuming a central role, universities are trying to move in line with it. Universum University College recently announced that beginning in September, it will offer instruction through social networks like Facebook, GoogleDocs, SlideShare, YouTube, Blogger, and WordPress.
University officials say students will not receive any printed material; each will get an iPad instead. All content will be developed through comprehensive media interactivity with students, using only social networks.
“At a time of globalisation, life has accelerated so much that we cannot expect our students to follow the traditional format of learning anymore. If they spend most of their time on Facebook or YouTube, we need to follow their interests, and we will use social networks to increase productivity during the studies. The iPad our students will receive for free will be the symbol of our modern approach to advanced study,” Universum University College Executive Director Alejtin Berisha told SETimes.