By Yasir Altaf Zargar
For those of us who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s, it was a relatively simple life, a life that had no internet, a life that was not monitored by any sensor devices, which witnessed inventions and a gradual change in technology. To find any information or to do any research was a hectic job; the reason was clear: there was no internet. Newspapers were rarely read, people were stuck to radio systems. But with the gradual advances in technology, man became a slave and technology ruled the world. Also, email made people interconnected. Time and money both were saved.
With the arrival of the World Wide Web (www), workloads as well as lifestyles changed dramatically. The arrival of Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines made our life easy and comfortable at first, but people became slaves to these inventions. To glean any information, all we need to do is switch the internet on and the information is displayed on our screens.
The arrival of Orkut, then Facebook, Twitter and now Google+ changed the methods of communication. Apart from sending messages, now people are connected with each other with the new means of messaging services. Social networking and the advancements in it made life faster by sharing information remotely through new ways. It changed the lifestyle of the younger generation. Far from dialing numbers, video calls became a triumph of the new technology. All these inventions made us interconnected, but they also brought competition into our lives.
With the advancement in these things, the English dictionary gave birth to new words; “LOL”, “ASL”, “TROLL”, “ASAP”, “F9”— all took birth with the arrival of social networking portals. These things are new to those who have never used any messaging client. These words may surprise them, but these things are the ‘fruits’ of the internet of things or internet modernity.
The advances in social networking did not stop there; but brought some more chat clients to us. The invention of one touch messaging services, like Whatsapp or the new Facebook messenger or Nimbuzz chat client, with functions of beeps on messages and international calls without any cost, brought a revolution into the lives of people. Nowadays, to make anything viral, all we need is to click on these apps and the rest of the work is done by these clients. Sending videos and images are just a ‘click job’ now.
The history of technology had a good start outside Kashmir, but within this “Paradise on Earth” it has had a different history. It may sound absurd to differentiate Kashmir from the rest of the world in terms of the technological revolution, but that is the truth. When the internet was first launched in Kashmir, first by BSNL, and later via mobile devices by Airtel, it ripped the pockets of people who were using internet services. High charges and use of unknown services were being pushed onto people. But times changed, people questioned these practices and all this ended. Thus, the internet did not have a good start here.
After the blanket ban on SMS services during the Omar Abdullah regime a few years ago, people shifted to the internet to remain connected with each other. Facebook was used to send messages. The birth of chat clients gave people another reason to remain busy. People began to quote Whatsapp even in conversations (mea karzie ye Whatsapp!). The telecom sector, which provided internet to people, earned a huge amount of money because of this chat client.
Whatsapp got a fillip in Kashmir in 2009 when there was a blanket ban on SMS services. It was the preferred tool used to send messages at the time as there was no other way to remain in contact with people. Even new smartphones carried an inbuilt Whatsapp feature. People were forced to get these smart tools to connect with the whole world.
With its introduction here, life changed dramatically. Images, videos, voice notes were being sent en masse. While this meant that people started to reveal their minds, adopt an individual style, these modern chat clients also helped people in exposing corrupt bureaucrats. This started here when a group of people shot a video of a principal asking for a bribe from a student. That was probably the first viral thing on social media from Kashmir. There were many more stories, exposes made by people, which went viral on the internet.
Preferring the internet as a tool may have changed Kashmir, but it has also spoiled the life of many people; many relationships were broken because of internet modernity. A recent survey says that more than 1,000 cases of divorce were being heard in local courts and the reason behind it was ‘illegitimate relations’ on the internet.
Many people also used the net for spreading canards and hoaxes – like what we saw on pulse polio issue. It clearly insinuates the misuse of internet in Kashmir. The internet may have ended the distance between the poor and the rich, the beautiful and the ugly, but, inversely, it has caused social and personal distress and mental trauma.
In sum, everything has its own limit and we should not cross that. We should give first preference to our personal life rather than a virtual one. We shouldn’t make the internet environment fetid. As if we do, it will become another menace for us.
—The writer is a web security analyst