Nov 22, 2008

Lifestyle - India;Youngsters finding themselves under scrutiny in Virtual world

Namitha Handa

As the older generation gets Net-savvy, youngsters are finding themselves under scrutiny in the virtual world

“I was doing a good job of hiding my relationships from my parents, but I guess my happy days are over,” says Niharika Singh. The nemesis of Niharika’s happy days was not real; it was a digital demon, one that lurks in almost every house in urban Mumbai. It was a social networking site.

“Everything was going smoothly,” she says, “And then I announced, on my social networking site, the relationship I was having, with a boy.”

All of Niharika’s friends knew of her relationship, but what she had forgotten to take into account were the newest ‘friends’ on her Facebook account. “My uncles and aunts began to send me ‘friend requests’, and I had no choice, but to accept them. As soon as they read my Wall, my relationship information was conveyed straight to my mother, from whom I had kept this information.”

Niharika is not alone in Mumbai, as the older generation links-up with the Internet age, a growing number of youngsters are finding their cyberspace “violated”, especially by relatives.

But like Darwin postulated... things evolve, and the youth have been taking precautions: “I have put my aunts and uncles on hold, in the sense that I haven’t accepted their invitations. I use the simple excuse: ‘I don’t go online that often’. The truth is that I have some photographs that I would rather they not see,” says Sonia Nath.

But with Niharika the breach of trust still rankles: “It is so irritating. Now you don’t even have freedom on the Internet.”

Most youngsters, however, believe that putting relatives’ request on hold simply adds to the suspicion levels. “If you don’t add them; or use the highest level of security they sense something is wrong, and will inform your parents anyway. So you actually can’t do much, but delete all photographs you don’t want your relatives to see,” says Saloni Dabas.

Of course, as the Mumbaikar diaspora spreads across the globe, not everyone is reluctant to have relatives among their social networking ‘pals’. “This is one of the cheapest ways to keep in touch with your relatives who have settled abroad. It’s like being part of their life, even when you are far away,” says Gayatri Shrikande.

Gaurav Gupta agrees with Gayatri, but also empathises with Niharika. “Social networking sites enable people to know you better. But, at the same time, I believe the people we are with our friends, is different from whom we are with our families, so that can be an issue. And what is cool with friends might not go down well with relatives,” he says.

Eventually it’s up to site members to decide whom they give access to. But familial ties are beginning to bind the digital sphere, and that has got kids surfing the grey matter. A no-relatives-allowed networking site? Give it a few months.


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