The unmitigated advantages of Internet and Smartphone proliferation is one of the things I have changed my mind about in last few years.
There is no doubt that the current Smartphone and internet revolution that is happening in India is going to be cause of many fundamental changes in Indian society. But some of those changes may not be desirable. Here are few disadvantages that I foresee with the smartphone revolution in India.
- Smartphones are inherently consumption devices.
Smartphones are designed to consume media, not create it. This may not be a problem for many, but for the millions of people who are buying a smartphone now, their phones are the first and primary computing device that they will own, and that is a problem.
For many of us, our first computer was …. well, personal computer and PCs are inherently designed to create. PCs are supposed to be used to write programs, edit videos, create digital graphics and make memes. The same is not true for a low-end smartphone. It’s designed use is listening to music and playing candy crush. That’s it.
This severely limits Smartphone’s ability as an educational and creative tool. This is not much of a disadvantage as it is a missed opportunity.
Of course, as the demographics of smartphone users changes, there is a chance that hardware and software designers of smartphone industry will take a note and design smartphones with a different philosophy.
2. Fake news, Propaganda, and memes.
I would be the last person to talk bad about internet memes but, when memes are not consumed with the right spirit it can be a problem.
Many recent revolutions were started because of the Internet and the freedom of information it provides. But many a time grave actions were also taken when wrong but viral information was shared on the internet.
A fake celebrity death is the most popular kind of Shareable fake news. However, fake political statements, misunderstood public policy and unverified scientific claims also form a sizeable chunk of the Shareable fake news.
Open your family Whatsapp group, scroll up a while. You will find a forwarded message that is one of these.
- A magical cure for Hair Loss/ Diabetes/ Blood pressure.
- How a famous celebrity is not who you think he/she is and actually related to ISIS or some other terror group.
- Politically charged argument on how a random recent tragedy is a fault of either current or past administration.
- A meme of a Politician or public figure taken well out of context.
I personally have no problem with any of the above, but it is very surprising how much people trust these kinds of things on the Internet. This phenomenon is greatly amplified when the Smartphone is the only news and entertainment source in a family.
Of course, Smartphone is not the only part of the equation. Internet as a whole is broken when it comes to supplying information and facts. As someone who spends a large chunk of personal time on the internet, it saddens me that there is a right way to introduce someone to the internet and then there is a wrong one.
Just to be clear I am all for the growing Smartphone and internet penetration in India. The advantages greatly outweigh the disadvantages. But having a healthy conversation regarding these issues is more important than ever now as we are on the verge of crossing the chasm of digital India.