I have just arrived back from a whirlwind trip to India. While my visit was purely for pleasure (my first non-working holiday in six years), my fascination with social media refused to take a vacation.
Recently, I wrote about the way that social media is used in Vietnam. This post explores social media Indian style. Here are the key social media findings from my Indian adventure.
Internet use is growing rapidly
India has a vast population of 1.3 billion people of which 375 million (or 28% of the population) are active internet users. This is a modest penetration rate in comparison to countries such as Australia where 93.1% of the population are internet users. However, this is changing in line with the development of infrastructure and smartphone technology. We Are Social reports that active internet use in India has grown at the rapid rate of more than 90% since 2015.
Social media is not a pervasive part of Indian culture, but it’s getting there
Currently, 10% of the Indian population (136 million people) use social media with 9% of the population (116 million people) accessing social media from a mobile device. The number of active social media users is growing at a rate of 20% per year, so adoption of social media is definitely increasing.
In terms of the most popular social media platforms in India, Facebook also reigns supreme. A Facebook user in India is most commonly a male between 20 and 29 years of age (only 24% of Facebook users in India are female).
The Facebook pages that have attracted the largest following are reflective of the deeply spiritual and vibrant Indian culture. The Facebook page for the Sri Sri Radha Rasabihari Temple in Mumbai has more than 5 million likes, followed by a news outlet called the Circle of India with 2.7 million followers and the Apollo Hospitals page with 2.2 million likes.
After Facebook, messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger make up the top three most popular social media platforms in India. Google+ and Twitter are also widely used by Indian social media users. Social shopping is not yet a common practice like it is in Vietnam, however, the selfie has definitely become a part of the Indian cultural landscape with selfie sticks now fervently sold to tourists alongside soapstone models of the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time – Rabindranath Tagore _______________________________________________ #tajmahal #india #love #inspiration #motivation #blessed #beautiful #blue #travel #travelgram #traveling #iphoneonly #instagood #instadaily #bestoftheday #picoftheday #photooftheday #photo #photography #f4f #followforfollow #follow4follow #incredibleindia
A personal experience with the selfie in India occurred during a road trip at a rest stop in Akbarpur. A young Indian girl of no more than five years of age, approached a member of my tour group with a shiny iPhone 7 in her hand. She smiled, held up the iPhone, and followed this gesture with the one word that defies all language barriers: “Selfie?”
Smartphones are present in India, but are not the norm
Our selfie buddy with the new iPhone was not a reflection of wider Indian culture. Being permanently joined to a smartphone is currently not a fixture of everyday life for the majority of the Indian population. While, 84% of Indians own a mobile phone, only 33% own a smartphone, obviously limiting mobile internet access, and social media use with it.
To put this into context, almost 83% of the population in Australia owns a smartphone, but with smartphone technology quickly evolving to provide a greater range of options, it will not take long before India also increases its smartphone ownership.
WiFi is a lovely surprise, but definitely not a certainty
Free WiFi is available in some urban public spaces such as airports and railway stations, usually in hotels (at least in the lobby) and in some retail stores upon request. However, as internet use is itself an emerging entity, free WiFi was definitely not expected the way that it was in Vietnam. It was very easy to tell where free WiFi was on offer, by the silent crowd of Westerners with their eyes glued to their phones and their scrolling fingers in overdrive. I was one of them, of course.
Governmental monitoring of social media sentiment is on the cards
According to the Hindustan Times, plans are underway by the Indian Government to monitor sentiment (positive, negative and neutral) displayed on social media and blogs about government-related matters “… to determine perceptions on various issues, including policy.”
While some may see this as intrusive, it is a softer approach compared with the Vietnamese government that has completely blocked Facebook on particular days to avoid it being used as a tool to organise protests.
आप जल्दी ही मिलते हैं, सुंदर भारत See you soon, beautiful India
India, what a precious, shining jewel you are, so vibrant, colourful and bright with positivity.
As social media use continues to flourish, the world will be given an even greater glimpse of your beauty. I will be back, and in the meantime, we always have social to keep us connected.
Please feel free to share your Indian social media experiences below.