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The young and the restless

Social networking platforms are rising in popularity and young India is increasingly flexing those muscles, Samar Khurshid reports.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2012 02:22 IST
Samar Khurshid
Samar Khurshid
Hindustan Times

The largest youth population in the world seems to be growing more active each year, be it in their personal lives or the public sphere, suggests the 2012 Hindustan Times Youth Survey. More young Indians are watching television for news, even if it means reading less; and many more are taking daily trips on the information super highway.

Last year, popular social networking websites Facebook and Twitter turned out to be both tools of social interaction as well as demonstration. The number of respondents who used Facebook to make announcements to their friends jumped from 10.1% in the previous survey to 20.65% this time around - a statistic that got a big 'dislike' from ad-man Suhel Seth. "People want to wear whatever they have as badges of honour," he says, referring to incessant online status updates.

The recent Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) controversy in the United States created a global wave of dissent among the youth. Many saw the Indian government's threats to ban 'objectionable content' online as an echo of these controlling policies. Shishir Shukla, 24, a chartered accountant in Delhi says, it is important to raise one's voice against web censorship. "This whole business of censorship is coming up because some people put up weird content - they should be blocked. It shouldn't hamper everyone else. I might not go out and protest but I would definitely raise my voice on the internet by blogging and posting wherever possible on how unfair it is," he says. Either way, without Facebook and Twitter, people might need to shut down their computers and log in to the real world.

Survey sample size | Vox pop | Mode of transport | Time spent reading newspaper | How often do you access the net | How do you make announcements

As digital media grows ever stronger and all-pervasive, young people are reading less. Over 60% of respondents spend less than half an hour reading newspapers or magazines every day. Fewer consider newspapers as an important source of news - 37.4% in 2011 down to 23.2% in the 2012 survey- a thought that gives us print jo sleepless nights. Meanwhile, internet usage is rising. With tablets, internet TV, mobile broadband and 3G sevices, the web has become easily accessible. In September 2011, India crossed the 100 million internet users mark. HT's survey showed that 24.1% of participants said they were online several times a day, while 35.1% said they used the net once daily - that's a lot of fingers clicking away.

"These are signs of hurried times and attention deficit disorder," says Seth. The growing importance of the internet, whether for news or social networking, is because "people want to achieve more with less. They want knowledge from a vending machine. Impatience is now a virtue, no longer a calamity."

While print media faces an uphill challenge, the fascination with television and the internet has anything but ebbed. Almost half the respondents, 48.8% to be exact, rely on television for their news. Television debates with belligerently-talkative anchors, who make as much news as they show, seem to be winning out over the humdrum editorials of news dailies.

But Rajiv Makhni, managing editor, technology, NDTV, says even television is losing out to the web. "Now there is no such thing as prime time television. Because of the net, news and information is available at any time," he says. Many might have thronged the Jaipur Literature Fest this year but the idea of getting an e-version of everything could soon turn into a reality. When the young consumers demand this, the industry giants can do nothing but supply. "The power of the written word will come back through apps on smartphones and tablets. Eventually there will be an amalgamation of television, online and print - 360 degrees of content," says Makhni.

The young and the restless are also taking to physical fitness - perhaps explaining why Hrithik Roshan's ten-week abs made such big news. Almost two-thirds of the surveyed population consider fitness a part of life rather than a necessary burden. This six-pack culture, as Seth calls it, has made grooming of the body more important than grooming of the mind. "Earlier six-packs were associated with beer. Now it's about six-pack abs, about how you look and not what you are," he says with disdain.

Psychologist Pulkit Sharma says the fitness trend is "definitely not a concern with health. It is an appearance addiction common among both sexes." Women prefer laid-back yoga routines while more men work out at the gym. But 43.1% of respondents favoured a walk in the park. Best guess? Dog owners killing two birds with one stone.

The future of India seems to be bright - tech-savvy, lively, fit and politically aware. The recent advertising war between two rival newspapers in Chennai suggests differently. Maybe they need to get their facts right.

First Published: Feb 07, 2012 00:56 IST