The last couple of centuries has seen some of the greatest social, political and technological upheavals mankind has ever seen, changing life as we (or rather, our forefathers) had known forever. Significant contributions to this change were made by Democracy, Communication Technology and Modern Education. Some countries pioneered such changes, some followed willingly, others complied after much strife. Some are still a long way away.
Religion, which played a major role in much of everyday political and social proceedings, has diminished to have little more than personal significance. The world is seeing homogenization of morals, cultures and beliefs due to greater migration of people across physical and political borders, pointing us towards a “World Town” in the future. India is bang in the middle of all of this. This shift can be more markedly seen if pre and post-Information era individuals are compared, which is forms the basis for the study of this article.
Shy, timid, raising neither her voice, nor her head, Amma grew up in an “Agrahaara” (a colony of Brahmins) in Mysore during the latter half of the 20th Century. Though not a “staunch” Brahmin, Amma grew up in a highly disciplined manner along with her 7 siblings under the watchful eye of Ajji, who, having lost her husband (whom she married when she was 10) soon after Amma’s birth, ran the entire family sternly and single handedly.
Most of the social and cultural norms were set in stone back then, partly because these were authoritative laws that were (apparently) followed for millennia, and partly because of lack of exposure to other cultures and societies. How can something be challenged if that is the only reality?
And thus Amma was raised, taught not to question things and just accept them the way they are. Change was bad because it would upset the balance. Keeping things the way they are meant no new problems would arise. The benefits far outweighed the disadvantages of change.
One of the only sources of social and cultural influence were movies, but most movies at that time embodied the same thing. Movies rarely made controversial statements about society, and if they did, rarely were they assimilated into everyday life.
This would continue well into Amma’s adulthood until the massive growth of Television. The Television revolution meant that people were kept informed about all the happenings in the world. It also offered a view into other people’s way of life, and suddenly, a lot of things started being questioned, like employment of women, rationale of arranged marriage, superstition and religion, inequity between the rich and the poor, corruption in administrative bodies. People had a newfound source of information and debate, and a platform for change and new thought.
A lot of Amma’s views, especially those centered around women and their role in society, changed under the influence of Movies and the News. So were her views on the legitimacy of religion, theism and the “Indian” way of life. Although all of this couldn’t shake her strongest beliefs that she has had since her childhood, it was a start.
Television is still her main source of Information, as she finds smartphones and the Internet too confusing. This means her ability to search up exactly what she wants to know is limited, but it also means she’s not limited to her preferences, and is exposed to a large range of topics on a daily basis. Slowly but surely, Amma is getting “modernized”, so to speak.
Onwards and Upwards.
From a young age, I wanted answers for everything, ranging from Science and Technology to Philosophy and Religion. Books went a long way towards satiating my thirst for knowledge. In fact, other than my Teachers and Parents, books were my only source of information during the first phase of my life. This also shaped my way of thought . Since I was only exposed to science books, my views of religion and culture took a hit. I never believed in a God, and religion seemed almost childish next to science. This has remained so even now, all thanks to the information I was exposed to during my childhood.
For the next two decades, I ardently studied science from all sources possible. My consumption of media (Movies, Music, Art, etc) remained non-existent throughout this time. This also meant the amount of importance I gave them was not high. Art, since it was human and feelings centric, didn’t have a place in science, and I rejected anything not having to do with science. I did doodle a lot, but at the end of the day, they were just random squiggles of graphite on paper, serving no higher purpose than mere existence. All of this would change with the advent of the Internet.
Things you want, Things you like but didn’t know existed and things that you would rather do without : The Internet has it all. A bottomless ocean of information, creations and opinions by billions of people, the Internet is a boon for humanity, and possibly the single greatest invention of mankind. Being able to provide a platform for information sharing, creativity, debate and socialising all at once, the Internet marks a new era of existence.
I was and still am enormously influenced by the Internet. My sudden upshot in consumption of media (especially music) brought about a newfound respect towards things that have the human touch. I started enjoying art and culture in a deeper way, and in fact started sharing my own creations on social media for others to experience. The ability to broadcast my opinion to hundreds of people at once meant I could also have a healthy debate with my contemporaries, while giving me a taste of what the general social scenario is like.
That being the “white” part of the Internet, the dark part has also left its mark on me, for the better in some ways. Things that are taboo in society, things that are rarely discussed on Television and among civilized folk exist in abundance on the Internet. Topics related to sex, drugs, human atrocities, societal taboos and other such controversial topics are discussed freely and at length on the Internet, and having watched them from a distance, I can confidently say that I can take better decisions concerning such things compared to someone who has only lived in the comfortable bubble formed by civil society.
Still undergoing metamorphosis because of newer Internet trends like free educational resources and production tools, freelancing and industry networking, I’m absolutely certain that the the Information Revolution in general and the Internet in specific will lead societal change for a long time to come. Something that can influence society on such a grand scale should and will be paid close attention to. All we can do is hope for better things to come in the future.