Online Extremism, Cognitive Dissonance and Students’ Agitation Rallies: Analyzing perception of Facebook users in Pakistan
Keywords:Agitation rallies Cognitive Dissonance, Facebook, Online Extremism, Students
With the emergence of social media hot trends, deliberate acts of getting masses involved in agitation movements got popular from political or ideological groups in Pakistan. Youth, as the primary receiver of social media inciting emotionalism campaigns has been the major stakeholder in this regard. An emerging concern has been observed in the form of student unions’ demonstrations staged in the favor of restoration of student unions banned by President Zia-ul-Haq in 80s. These unions under the banner of Student Action Committee have taken to the street to pressurize the government to fulfill their charter of demands including restoration of students unions, freezing fee hikes, polices on sexual harassment and representation of students’ decision making in campuses. Thus the demonstrations resulted in the heavily bombardment of extremist narratives on social media regarding student solidarity march. Due to the series of events, the student solidarity march has gathered different opinions aiming at creating conflict among people of different school of thoughts. The diversity of opinion among various segments of society may create a perception of this march as political, ethnic or educational movement or involving the participants in a constant state of dissonance as participating in demonstrations without having clarity about the purpose, objectives and agenda of such processions. Drawing upon the theoretical perspective of Cognitive Dissonance, the study tends to investigate the FB users' reaction towards the students solidarity march. For this purpose, 150 Facebook respondents are selected by using purposive sampling and surveyed. The findings suggested that all the hypotheses are proven on finding P value 0.000 using Spearman correlation as more exposure to the student agitation movement is negatively correlated with more dissonance in the minds of audience and exaggerated coverage of student movement is also positively correlated with the conflict of thoughts among the audience. Moreover, it is also found that student agitation movement is catering political agenda under the name of education.