Nowithstanding one belief that a vast majority of Internet applications are yet to be “invented,” the fact of the matter is Internet has been mainstream for over a decade old. We thus run the danger that new developments here won’t make news. For example, usage of the Net for politics (cf. my last post on Obama), is a done thing now, we have reams being written about this even in the Indian media and I am afraid that it will all soon draw a yawn from the readers.
In recent days, however, I have been surprised by two news stories on the Net.
1. The first was a story last week
in the daily Mint
in North Kerala State is now the first district in India where at least one person in each household is Net savvy. Many households have at least one family member in the Gulf, with whom emails and chat is used to keep in touch. Note that India’s Internet penetration as a whole is barely 5% (~ 50 mio users in a 1000 mio+ population).
The catalyst was the government’s Akshaya Project launched in Aug ’02 to make the populace e-literate. There are 289 Akshaya kiosks too and electricity, phone and other bill payments are being done online. The users include a fair number of purdah-clad women, this being a Muslim-dominated district.
2. The other is a story in Newsweek
on a couple – Rhonda, 39, who lives in California and Paul,43, who lives in Wales – who have “met” and fallen in love on Second Life. No, this by itself is not what’s unusual, there are other people who have found romance on Second Life : 43,000 is the number of such couples who have so far got “married.” And there are by itself interesting aspects to Rhonda and Paul’s story.
What’s unusual is the conclusion : that online is actually making possible genuine relationships. The conventional wisdom was that online relationships are risky and that love cannot flourish unless two people have met first in the flesh. Fake profiles and protection of kids and teenagers from perverts, for example, were in the news.
Unlike in the real world where a mutual attraction is likely at first sight, in online it usually grows only over time. The distance apparently makes candor possible, couples share much more information about themselves than they would in real life. This may lead to an emotional bonding !
Worldwide, 1.6 billion of 2 billion Internet users in 2011 are expected to have used some virtual world or the other.Separately, there are 800 dating sites in the U.S. and 10% of Internet users currently look for love online. The Internet is also having an incredible ability in allowing people to self-sort i.e find and engage like-minded others, it’s said. And given that people have very different personalities and tastes, this can indeed be useful.