Are you curious about how good the new restaurant in town is? Eager to know where the new multiplex is coming up? It is likely you’ll find both the questions and their answers about Tiruchi in one of the many Facebook pages dedicated to the city.
There are atleast ten pages dedicated to Tiruchi that track the pulse of the city (specific interest pages not included).
Initially, these pages were ideal for Tiruchiites living away from home to gush over nostalgia.
Later, they posted sepia tinted photographs of the city’s celebrated past. But over the months, these pages have turned into first-hand sources of news on developments around the city, particularly in the entertainment arena. Of late, they’ve also taken up social causes.
Some of the pages have consistently tried to increase their potential, says Shyam Sundar, founder of Trichinopoly. “Trichinopoly started out as a recording of the ‘Pride of Tiruchi’ — legends, temples and tourist spots,” says Shyam. “We realised the potential of the page to take up civic and social issues only when we put up a photograph of uncleared garbage in a residential area and tagged the respective MLA on Facebook. There was a prompt response.”
Balaji of Namma Trichy acknowledges that these pages could be used to focus on various issues. “Our page was initially about information about the city, but we have also connected prospective blood donors with recipients,” says Balaji. Over the last two years, these pages are increasingly becoming the go-to sites for new developments and yet-to-open projects like malls and multiplexes. Balaji insists that administrators are cautious to verify any information before posting. “Be it requests for blood donation or any new information, we personally verify it.”
At times, the communities act as watchdogs, keep developing issues alive. “We follow up on progress or the lack of it on projects announced for the city like the IT park link road and the IIM campus. We post photos of stages of development with information we have collected at the project site,” says Shyam.
However, moderators of these pages have burnt their fingers by discovering for themselves that, often, pledges in the virtual world, never materialise in the real world. “Most of the people who like these pages are youth who have an affinity to the city,” says Vijayaraghavan Krishnan, one of the content contributors for ‘I love Trichy’. “Some of them have moved out of the city and are simply curious about what is going on.” Hardly a handful of those who supported Vijayaraghavan’s ‘Clean the Cauvery bank’ campaign on Facebook were ready to roll up their sleeves on the D-day.
Agrees Shyam Sundar, “People are willing to support online, but when it comes to getting down and dirty, very few turn up.”
His page mobilised a cleanup of the Walker’s Track at the Race Course Road, which had a poor show of hands. Sribalaji, founder of Nammatrichy has a similar tale to narrate. “While 800 people may have supported our greening campaign online, only 15 turned up.”
“Whatever its limitations, a Facebook city page has a collective voice which is more powerful than an individual voice,” says Shyam. “Earlier, we wrote about the state of urinals in the central bus stand and exhorted the members in a group to send e-mails to the district Collector. We did see some follow-up action.” With thousands of people who profess to care about the city on these pages, citizen initiatives for betterment of the city, lie unrealised.