'Life in a Metro': Facebook and friendship among college youth in a north Indian city
This project, which draws on the ongoing doctoral research of Rahul Advani, explores the nature of online friendships and their relationship with other friendship practices in India by posing several questions: What kinds of new spaces does the internet open up for friendship? Are online friendships any less ‘real’ than those offline? Has the meaning of friendship changed?
Unlike the way online behaviour has unfolded in much of the world, the case of India presents a rather different story; while social networking sites in the global North entered the mainstream between the years 2006 and 2008 and were primarily accessed through computers, India’s technological leapfrogging has meant that the mobile phone has been the first port of entry to the internet for the majority of today’s young Indians. As a result, India now hosts the second-largest population of mobile-based internet users in the world.
Another exception posed by the Indian story of online friendship is that social networking sites, rather than flattening out the cultural anchors of Indian sociality, instead, cause online friendship to play out in a distinctly Indian way - the publicising of the personal within social media arguably caters extremely well to the uniquely Indian obsession with the private lives of others.
Taking the form of an interactive website that takes users on a journey into the IT boom city of Pune, one of India's fast growing cities, the project provides a glimpse into the everyday life of a typical college student in India. This project contributes to the cultural debates around what it means to be a young person in today’s digital age and how part of growing up involves navigating the world of friendship, not only offline, but now simultaneously online.
This project is a collaboration between King's College London's India Institute and designer and developer Calvin Tan. It is supported by the university's Culture team as part of the Early Career Researchers scheme.