Urban womenfolk in India often attract a lot of scathing commentary because of their perceived indulgence in online shopping or freewheeling rants on social media. But recent surveys on internet population trends and social behaviour paint a completely different picture.
Trampling popular perceptions, a recent study by a UK-based firm has highlighted a major gender imbalance on India’s online landscape. Women, according to the survey, constitute merely 24% of the total number of Facebook users in the country. The figure looks more alarming because, just recently, the social-networking giant labelled India as its second-biggest market in the world. It is also in stark contrast with the global digital gender graphs that clearly show that women outnumber men on social media. With Karnataka being a hub of IT firms, are the latest findings something we need to worry about or is it OK to be a little passive on social-networking sites? Bangalore Times take stock of the situation…
“The statistics appear to be surprising when seen from the demographic point of view. But having said that, the existence of a gender gap in internet usage cannot be entirely negated,” says Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, women’s champion and a CXO search consultant.
A number of factors, however, come into play — social networking sites are largely gender-neutral and allow the opening of multiple accounts, particularly for business users; most offices restrict access to certain websites, limiting the use of these platforms only through smartphones or similar hand-held devices; compared to sites like LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook is more exposed to unwelcome attention, and turns out to be more troublesome and addictive, at times.
“Women, by nature, are more observant than responsive. In certain cases, working women also consider logging onto social media a sheer waste of time. They don’t want to document their day-to-day activities and whereabouts on an open platform, hence their presence becomes more of a self-curated and restrained activity,” adds Priya.
Marker for women’s empowerment?
“While for most women, being on social media is a liberating experience, many fall victim to unwarranted policing and are scrutinized and belittled for expressing their views on online platforms,” says social activist Vidya Dinker. According to her, social media is not a magic wand that can solve issues, and considering the limitations that women face in this country, 24% is not a very bad number. She suggests we should give things time to grow organically.
“Instead, our focus should be on educating and sensitizing women, particularly those from the marginalized sections of the society, on sensibly using information available on the internet for self-benefit and uplift of society,” Vidya adds.
Too fake and pretentious
“I see most of my friends just scrolling through posts and randomly hitting the like button without actually putting a thought into anything. Social-networking websites are often misused to put up things for public viewing that are not even real and eventually turns boring and monotonous. Academically, I don’t think I am losing out much by not being on Facebook,” says college-goer Karthika N.
Its a surprising revelation.
In a curious turn of events, a Google study — carried out earlier this year — showed that an increasing number of Indian women across all age groups are using the search engine on keywords that range from beauty and fashion to health and fitness, encouraging a belief that the internet is playing a pivotal role in changing the lives of women in the country.