Centre for Internet & Society

There’s one thing these days that determines the passion of the modern Indian woman: their ever-growing love affair with the internet. The article by L Subramani was published in the Deccan Herald on May 27, 2011.

The sight of women updating their Facebook status, tweeting or checking their emails on the move makes it apparently clear that women, more than men, take to internet and in particular to social networking.

Global researches have lent credence to the phenomena that women are either obsessed or even addicted to Facebook and other social networking sites, suggesting that a third of women aged 18 to 34 check their Facebook pages when they wake up in the morning before even going to the toilet, while 21 per cent of those in the same age group check the social networking site before going to bed.

Alarmingly, the same study, by UK-based Oxygen Media and Lightspeed Research-also suggest that 42 per cent from the same age group have no problems posting pictures of them drunk on Facebook.

"I’ve been on Facebook for about a year and a half,” admitted 26-year-old Kate who doesn’t like to tell her real name. “It has sort of become a regular thing. Apart from attending meetings or on important work, I quite naturally check the posts others have made and regularly update my status on FB."

Personal space

She denies that Facebook has gradually crawled into her personal life or could have even contributed to her remaining single. "It’s ridiculous (to say that FB has an impact on my life). I think it’s the best way to catch up with friends and family."

Smartphones with Facebook apps and growing usage of the internet on mobile phones have also opened up the possibility of logging on to social networking sites often and on the move and quite naturally, tech savvy urban women are taken into it, according to cyber researchers.

A cursory glance at many of the dating sites also suggest that women of all ages use the relative anonymity to reach out to new friends or to talk their minds out. Surprisingly, a few of them are also from small towns and places not on the radar for prolific internet usage.

A recent study by Google to understand the profiles of people using various internet browsers suggested that nearly 36 per cent of Indian women are using Chrome — Google’s own browser —  for its seemingly faster performance that would make updating Facebook status or accessing videos and photos much easier.

"Women mostly use the internet for accessing entertainment and would like it to be fast,” Nikhil Rungta, country marketing head, Google India said. “It became clear that most of them use Chrome either for social networking or accessing multimedia or entertainment content."

However, Nishant Shah, a researcher on cyber behaviour and director of research at Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Research, is sceptical about the numbers. "There aren’t any specific studies to suggest that Indian women are on social networking more than men," he said.
"This doesn’t look possible when researches have shown that men outnumber women in overall internet usage. It may even be possible that many men are posing as women in social networking sites."

Bangalore-based writer and social commentator Vaasanthi feels that social networking  provides the space women always look for. “It may be called ‘Facebook’, but you aren’t talking to a real face. This gives the freedom and the courage for women to freely express themselves,” she said.

"Given that most women today come from nuclear families, they actually don’t have that many people to talk to in real world. The virtual world provides them what they can’t get in real world."

She also said there is no need to feel alarmed about the Facebook phenomenon. "Facebook or social networking phenomenon is a new change and any change would initially cause concerns. But surely this would fade away," she said.

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