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India still decades behind the rest in Internet Culture

Social media yesterday celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first-ever web page displayed on the World Wide Web. But has internet culture seen notable developments in India?

When we speak about the web in India, the two things that come to mind is Facebook and Whatsapp, because that’s what Indians use the most on the web.

However, in most of the parts of US or the UK, usage of the internet has diversified extensively over the last decade.

An average internet user in India, who spends around three hours a day on the web, spends most of his/her time on social media and YouTube, suggested a Digital Strategy Consulting report.

Also, an average internet trend in India is for users to spend 13 minutes a day on dating websites.

This is something countries like the US, and the UK had done in the mid-90s when India’s of internet penetration was as limited as a 0.5 percent.

India has recently moved up in the charts with a total of 462,124,989 users, and it is just behind China which has 721,434,547 users presently. The US is far behind in numbers of users, with a total of 286,942,362 users; whereas the UK has 54,027,428 users.

However, this count is thanks to a large population, not actual intelligent usage or even wide-spread usage.

For example, the United Kingdom has an internet penetration of 92.60 percent, followed by the United States with 88.50 percent penetration.

Only 34.80 percent of the Indian population has access to the web at present.

Internet reach in India has undoubtedly undergone a revolution since 2009, rising from 5.1 percent to almost 35 percent in 2016.

The last two years have seen significant developments, with the reach almost doubling, as the country only had an 18 percent internet penetration in 2014.

The professional linking websites like LinkedIn have seen a significant rise in the users, whereas micro-blogging sites like Twitter still await similar hikes.

On the other hand, Facebook has noticed a massive growth, with a total of 69 million users. This has left even China behind, which has a total of 64 million Facebook users.

The reach is growing at a massive rate. However, the internet culture of the country is still not mature enough to utilise online resources fully or even build new ones.

There is a lot of trolling and sharing of gossip, but little actual use of the internet to change the manner in which we operate as a society. Think e-commerce, small business development or community engagement.

Also, there is a question of where this growth is happening. The past one year has seen a 25 percent increase in the number of internet users. But more than half of these users were reported to use the internet only on their mobile devices, mostly to access social media platforms.

Further, looking into the social media trends on the web in India—the country is yet to witness a reasonable growth in the mindset of users to make the best use of the resource. Social media platforms are used more to post angry or bad comments and less to develop long-term connections.

This lack of real ‘internet culture’, where the web is used as wholly a utility as roads, electricity or other infrastructure, is also hampered, ironically, by our sheer numbers.

With a 1.2 billion-member population, not only is the sheer number of offline users overwhelming but creating a shared culture within them is still a distant dream.

Research conducted by Phil Agre, an associate professor of communication at the University of California mentions, “Simply putting everyone on the Internet, however, will not ensure that they share their thinking with one another.”

With such diverse interests, it is quite a tedious job to attain a particular internet culture among citizens of the second-most populated nation on Earth.

Only if internet penetration blends with a significantly different culture, will we see the internet dramatically change trends in India.

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