With the Internet and the social media accessing and sharing information across borders, the ‘Global Indian' is an inevitability in the urban set up.

Recently, an honest insomniac very aptly put this up as her status message: ‘Internet is the Curse of my Generation.' It struck me as powerfully ironic. (Mark the words starting with capital letters.)

It is not usual that someone voices his/her frustrations with a life-changing invention on that very medium itself. This was going against the ‘Spiral of Silence.' Today we can all admit to being Internet addicts, which in turn causes people, particularly the older generation, to label us as zombies or insomniacs. But more often, especially in public spaces, we do try to look at the brighter side of it; whether in denial, defiance or debate. ‘Internet is a boon' will always win more votes than those arguing against it. And rightly so. But, the fact remains that the strength of any media and how it serves best is solely dependent on the motives and purposes of its users. Perhaps social media came as the perfect answer to this.

Social media

Social media is primarily dependent on user-generated content and interactions. It has redefined personal communication and clearly highlights our growing dependence on virtual evidence rather than the spoken word. Professional and personal distinctions are easily blurred and the whole drama of real life is translated onto this virtual world. If Facebook isn't part of your daily lingo then you are somewhere on the margins of the 21st century life experience. How does the Internet serve each individual and subsequently a whole group with common interest?

A personal thought has the potential to be contested upon, it helps spread messages and opinions in a few clicks, you connect with people whether from the past, present or the potential ones in the future and marketing any event, idea, belief or faith becomes so much easier. One needn't find the target audience here but it really works the other way round. In formal words, Social media has come to redefine the speed of information, reach, accessibility and permanency. It has come to change our perspectives on networking and communication and most importantly eased the process of “knowing” itself.

New media and the global Indian

A seminar on ‘The Global Indian' at Stella Maris College addressed these issues: Social Media, Cultural Diversity and the Global Indian. The three form a connected whole. Anand Krishna, Information Officer, US Consulate of Chennai, began with the history of communication and marked the trajectory of its growth. While most civilisations boast of oral traditions, gradually better means and methods were discovered. The printing press entailed the production of mass texts which helped people communicate with each other, discuss and preserve their legacy through multiple means. New media is merely an extension of these methods of interactions. Sharing, collaborating and the common man are the key words in Social media.

For the Global Indian, this sharing and collaborating becomes an important part of personality building. He gets access to many worlds, home and beyond and is socialised by the information that he can process from various channels. How many of us love American rock music, Italian fashion labels, Indian food and European soccer? And how easy is it to find others who have similar choices? The Indian urban choices are not very different from one another and the urban culture is proof of this.

Multiple options

Yes, as I write this, I am also conscious of the fact that there are people who are relatively less comfortable with the idea and, much to the shock of many, do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts. Many parts of the country are absolute strangers to this accelerated development. Therefore, it will help to remember that this is purely an urban niche. Even in the urban scene, some have the excuse of not giving into peer pressure and waste of time while others could be quoted on sheer indifference.

But thankfully, there are varieties here that cater to pretty much all interests and give scope to build hobbies into full fledged activities; Linkedin for professional networking, Tumblr and Flickr for photography enthusiasts and sites like Youtube where videos ranging from college bands to professional artists are available. It helps with popularity and recognition. Blog sites have been termed as public diaries but, as a regular bloggie, I can definitely say that there is an unmatched pride in publishing your work in the virtual world.

Causes for concern

However, there are dicey situations as well. Privacy is a major cause for worry. Anyone from a potential employer to a stalker could get access to your personal life and play havoc with the information available. Cyber crime has been in the news in recent times. Networking with strangers on social media forums has also been linked to many murders. Hence educating users to think critically and beware of such possibilities becomes a necessity.

There are also other questions on the use of social media. Should it be treated as a space for free speech where each person has the freedom to voice his opinions, despite how others might interpret it?

We know how Shashi Tharoor tweeted his way to trouble multiple times. There are other debates around forums like Wikileaks too. Of course, when it comes to public figures or political controversies, there is much less freedom.

And almost immediately, another question follows. Should this form of media be treated less seriously and more spontaneously? But one of the crucial points of Obama's victory was the election campaign that incorporated social media and used it as a great tool to connect with young people, motivating them to vote.

Ultimately, these are individual choices dictated by personal ethics and belief systems and that again brings forth the dynamism of social media. It can be what each wants it to be: a medium for personal rant, a great medium to spread a meaningful social message or simply a way of keeping in touch with good ole' buddies.

As Keanu Reeves said in “The Matrix”, it is indeed “a world where anything is possible.”

Niharika is a III Year BA Literature student at Stella Maris College.

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Access and maintenance of a network becomes much easier for professional purposes and personally, there was never an easier way to keep in touch with old friends. Out of touch is not a phrase in existence any more. - NIKHIL

Professionally, social media's power has been slightly ambiguous, but it is a great networking tool. It is a great medium of publicity for any event. POORVAJA

My most favourite part is that I get to really keep in touch with family; people whom I would otherwise get to catch up with only at occasional functions.SHRIYA

I feel connected to a lot of people despite them being relative strangers in reality. It helps bridge a lot of gaps. - RUSHALI

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