As we turn to the online world more and more, some say that a high level of social media use is leading to young people in Western cultures experiencing greater loneliness, anxiety and social isolation.
In complete contrast, research carried out by King’s College London has now found that using social media in India has led to young people having more physical interaction with friends rather than less.
Rahul Advani, a PhD student in the India Institute at King’s, travelled to Pune, a mid-sized city not far from Mumbai, to study the use social media by people age 18-24.
The increased availability of affordably-priced smartphones in India, combined with cheaper mobile data, has made the possibility of going online a recent reality for many Indians. The sheer scale and speed with which young Indians are beginning to come online for the very first time is unprecedented and, in 2017, India overtook the United States to become the country with the highest number of Facebook users in the world. At that point, 241 million people were recorded to be using the social media platform.
In the first study of its kind in the region, Rahul found that social media has changed the way young people socialise and has led to a greater ability to find and meet with friends.
He explains, ‘Where we would use tracking devices to follow taxi drivers or takeaway delivery, lower-middle class youth in India use it to track friends and arrange meet ups.’
There is also a trend for using Facebook to ‘check in’ to certain locations, allowing young people to learn if their friends are nearby at the same time and subsequently meet with them more often. It seems that the act of a ‘check-in’ is an unspoken invitation to ‘hang out’ or meet up.
‘Teenagers from the lower-middle classes in India have always placed a high value on in-person friendships. This research suggests that they are adapting their use of technology and social media to boost these friendships and increase the amount of face to face interaction even further.’
Rahul has also found that an increase in social media use has led to young people interacting with their city more. He discovered that lives previously centred around local landmarks and meeting points but young people are now moving further afield to social areas where internet connection, and the ability to ‘check-in,’ is more easily accessible.
It appears that, for now, young Indians are shunning the idea of blurring out the real world in favour of embracing the digital world.
Step in to the life of a young person using social media in Pune at Life in a Metro.