By Dhriti Mehta, Kunzes Goba and Sahiba Bhatia
Many people associate the Internet with social networking sites and jumping on whatever is ‘trending’, but for others, it is also an indispensable way of making life easier. The Internet is ubiquitous in some of our lives and we frequently see polarizing debates on the good or bad value of the Internet. On one hand, a person can go online and find forums where only their username is visible. A pseudonym is the closest thing you will get to personally address them, but it’s enough for you talk at length about your interests and opinions. But on the other hand, if someone is seeking connections that go beyond their hobbies, there are routes for that as well.
India is the second largest online market, just behind China. But only 29% of these users are women. We wondered what the Internet means to Indian women so we spoke to some of them.
Here are their stories on how they use the worldwide web.
Suman, 20, 24/7 live-in caregiver, Gurgaon
I only started using the Internet last year. In July. You see, I’ve already started my own channel with a director, he’s like a business partner. It’s a channel on Facebook and YouTube, we upload Bhojpuri music videos and movie videos. Do you know if I can get an iPad in my budget? It’s easier to see and upload videos through it.
I also write scripts, take photographs of the pages and send them through WhatsApp. One of my scripts has already been accepted, including the songs in that story. I’m just trying my luck in the Bhojpuri film industry. And if this doesn’t work out, there’s always college.
I can’t imagine not using the Internet now. It’s just made everything easier. I use it to talk to friends and family, who are still back home in U.P. I use it for transportation, and now I’m also using it for work. Of course, if I stop using the Internet for some reason then it will just be like before, which is fine. But we’ve become dependent on the Internet now. It will be difficult.
Esha, 24, development communications professional, Ghaziabad
Remember Orkut? That was the first time I really got involved with the Internet, before that, it was just Google to do research for school projects. I was pretty active in the Orkut communities, especially this one called Blurts, an Orkut community for writers. I’ve made many real-life friends through it, and I’m still in touch with them. The woman I dog-sit for right now, I met her and her daughter through Blurts.
If the Internet has really changed anything, it’s the kind of media I consume, and the way I consume it. Like earlier, if I knew a few songs by my favourite artist, it was enough. Now I can find out they have so many more albums and I want to listen to them all. I’m a k-pop fan and it’s a genre that I cannot enjoy without the Internet. Like two years ago, a new music video had come out but I couldn’t watch it because I was travelling, I only had 2G and YouTube wasn’t loading fast enough.
And this is just my scenario. Different people use media differently. My parents only use WhatsApp and that’s mostly to stay in touch with relatives. Mom has a Facebook but I have to often remind her to check it.
One of the ways the Internet has influenced my life though is for self-help. I have depression and on the days that I feel isolated, I am constantly on Twitter because I want to reach out to people but I physically can’t. I cannot expect my real-life friends to relate with my depression, so I look for mental health forums and talks online. It’s easier to find like-minded people online.
Sakshi, 24, student , New Delhi
I shifted to Delhi from Mumbai. It is very lonely when you don’t know people in the city, even the few friends I have here from law school are so busy ever since we started working. Initially I used to have major FOMO (fear of missing out) so I drastically reduced the time spent on Instagram and Snapchat to avoid seeing my friends, who were constantly meeting up in Mumbai.
I found myself on apps like Tinder to meet new people in the city and make friends and just in general to reduce my loneliness. I’ve been going out a lot more than before. I don’t just spend my weekends sulking in bed watching Netflix and doing nothing because I have more of a social life now. Dating has become easy with the Internet, you can block out the creeps and filter only good matches for yourself. My parents don’t know this, of course. They would never approve of meeting strangers off the Internet. Also, my mother thinks that I cook but I actually buy all my food from Swiggy, because I usually don’t have the time to cook. But I still eat dal chaawal yaar, it’s just that someone else is doing the cooking for me.
Aishwarya, 23, copywriter, Mumbai
If you tell me to never meet people, I can do that. I can go days without meeting people. I spend around 10 hours of my day on the Internet. I work as a senior copywriter in Mumbai, and with most of the work being online, without the Internet I would be very much unemployed. From Netflix, to Zomato, to Uber, there’s not a single part of the Internet that is not part of my life. And I know it makes me seem anti-social but I’m fine with that.
I also sketch as a hobby, but now I only upload sketches that look good on Facebook. I mean, once we start using social media it’s hard not to think in those terms. We quote everything like we are writing it on Facebook.
Uma, 50, businesswoman, Bangalore
My work is my baby. I run a military tourism company, apart from several other jobs and I am in charge of creating travel itineraries. Most of the knowledge I have about those places comes from travelling there, not the Internet. I only use that for cross-checking flight timings. I still have my old-school passion, so I don’t check my phone every five minutes. Nothing earth shattering will happen during that time! I do some online shopping and a little bit of social media, but that’s it. And I love reading but I cannot stand Kindle.
Jyotsna, 24, food blogger, Indore
After I did my engineering, an old friend suggested we collaborate with a fashion-food blogging business. I do maintain a blog, but Instagram is the main tool to attract people as their attention span is low, and most don’t prefer to read long reviews. I keep the description of the food short but appealing. So yes, my whole business is run on social media. But I consciously make an effort to not check my phone after posting something. This validating thing which drives other bloggers, it’s not good for me.
Saritha, 23, works at a children’s bookstore, Bangalore
I usually use the Internet for Messenger. Calling my relatives in Nepal has become easier because of the Internet. I also prefer Amazon for online shopping but I always ask one of my friends to do it for me. I’m scared that I’ll do something wrong and that I won’t know how to use the website.
Once I was making a payment through the Internet and they asked me for my account details. I instantly realized it was a scam of some kind and decided that giving bank account number online would be a terrible move.
So I only use the Internet for social media, and sometimes for work at the bookstore. But I’m too scared to use OLA so I take an auto to work. I also use YouTube to watch crotchet-making videos, since that is my hobby.
Padma, 27, domestic worker, Jaipur
I recently got a Jio mobile and it makes it easier for me to work. I have a 5-year-old son and it’s tiring to work and also check on him. So now I put on a video for him. It’s those videos with the dancing animals and nursery rhymes, he’s only 5 years old so it keeps him entertained.
It’s not good for his eyes, I know. At least now I can earn enough to be able to afford a pair of glasses if he needs them.
Amrita, 47, HR manager, Jaipur
Years ago, after completing my MBA, my friends and I lost touch with each other. Some moved abroad, some got married and everyone got caught up in their new lives and jobs. It was not that we didn’t stay in touch, We couldn’t. The Internet is pretty recent for us and reconnecting with old, lost friends was like a revelation. If Facebook and WhatsApp had existed in the 90s, I would have been able to preserve even more friendships.
When my friends formed our WhatsApp group, two years ago, we would enthusiastically share pictures of our family, talk about our jobs and it didn’t take long before we planned a reunion. Some flew in from different countries to attend it, which took place last year.
But the group is not as active as before. We send the usual wishes on someone’s birthday, we change the name of the group to HBD ‘name of the person’. It seems that a lot of people have either muted or exited the group though. Maybe they got sick of all the images being forwarded, those ‘good morning’ roses.