Digital Content: The New King of Slaves

Back in 2012, as a teenage girl, I eagerly waited for 1 pm for the World Television Premiere of my then favourite Bollywood flick, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Shift to 2019, I can now tune into Amazon Prime anytime to watch it and rejuvenate myself. Not only movies, online streaming platforms offer a host of content categories for us to savour. With the gargantuan rise in the online population of India to approximately 450 million, it is fair to joke that the Union Budget 2019-20 disappointed us by not offering any subsidies on subscription fees to these platforms.

It is said that necessity is the mother of all invention. Thus, it was the lack of cost-effective and meaningful content that contributed to the boom of the digital content industry in India. Back in 2010, the scope of the Digital Revolution was merely restricted to online shopping. However, it was now widened into a myriad of other activities foraying into every aspect of a convenient lifestyle to include social media, entertainment, music, sports and gaming among others. According to a study done in 2018,the number of internet users had increased about 15 times in the past 3 years. With this penetration, India has become one of the most promising markets for YouTube, Instagram, Amazon Prime and Netflix.

On an average an Internet user in India spends 14% of his time and 17% of her monthly income on entertainment. The size of the screen has ceased to matter and you would find a majority of the people around you glued to their smartphone screens. Thus everyone: content creators, corporations and even the government are leveraging their growth prospects on this latest trend.

So, what is responsible for this paradigm shift ?

The increase in India’s ‘Digital Diet’ can be attributed to the growing middle class and millennial population. The salaried class has affinity towards on demand ‘less than 30/20 minute’ videos. This is because the more they watch in a shorter period of time, say during metro travel, the more satisfied they are. Millennials prefer on demand, forward thinking content and are absolutely unimpressed by the high-voltage ‘Naagin’ operas on TV. Indeed, uber, no-nonsense and crisp content is taking precedence over the conventional television programs.

However, if I were to name the single most important event that lead to the boom of the digital content industry and the sad demise of the DTH/dish companies and their crashing share prices, it has to be the launch of Reliance JIO. The JIO EFFECT  disrupted India’s telecom sector with its pocket friendly tariffs and plummeted market-wide data prices leading to a manifold increase in data consumption across the country’s diverse demography. All thanks to JIO that India is the world’s cheapest country in terms of data prices. This was complemented by higher internet

 speeds that seem to have made ‘buffering’ a thing of the past as well as cheaper smartphones dumped in India from Chinese companies.

What is interesting to note is that it not only the entertainment industry but also other fields that are being transformed under the digital revolution.

Smart marketers have realized the impact of budding, absolutely unfiltered ‘gen-next’ YouTubers and Instagrammers who are called ‘Influencers’. They rope in famous YouTube stars like Prajakta Koli and Bhavan Bam each with more than 4 million subscribers and noteworthy Instagrammers like Kusha Kapila to add a relatablily factor to their advertisements by featuring these youth icons. The gaming industry in India is all set for a huge change with the rising popularity of virtual reality.

Digital News is also taking new shape with the ‘short video+ text’ and photo essays format to make news more engaging. Consumption of podcasts is at an all time high in India. The sharp reception of Tier II and III cities and rural areas where vernacular content is topping the charts is awe striking. The credit for this must be expended to Google India’s award winning initiatives: Navlekha, that aims to bring non-English conversant people to the internet and Internet Saathi that launched with the objective of bridging the digital gender disparities in rural India.

However, just as there are two sides to every coin, this unprecedented addiction to digital content has a flipside. Many lifestyle gurus and coaches have expressed their anguish against what they call ‘Digital Dementia’. It has resulted in sedentary lifestyles causing a mammoth increase in obesity and lifestyle diseases like diabetes and hypertension among younger people. Not to mention the shorter attention span that has hampered our productive efficiency.Adding to the nuisance are Chinese video making apps like TikTok that are motivating people to perform hideously dramatic acts and is diverting their focus from the more meaningful objectives of life. An opinion video on TikTok by popular YouTube channel The Teen Trolls found that most ‘TikTokers’ use the platform for overnight fame, a bizzare claim. And if that was not enough, mid-night binge watching has resulted higher cortisol levels resulting in erratic sleep cycles causing increased stress levels and episodes of anxiety and panic.

This revolution has disrupted the quietude in our lives: even when we are alone we have 300 odd Instagram followers and 1500 Facebook friends who know our whereabouts and what we are doing. If I were to say this to my peers they  would label me as a boring person who is living beyond her age.

The multitude of reforms undertaken by the government of our country to strive towards a Digital India are laudable. Indeed, they have correctly recognised that the internet is an indispensable weapon for the accomplishment of the $5 trillion economy target. However, it is absolutely essential now to address the impact of the ‘Slave of the Internet’ effect and harness measures to reduce its negative impacts which is costing India the physical and mental health of its citizens.

Niharika Srivastava
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Niharika is an Economics student at SRCC who loves to read, write and finds home in a plethora of interesting YouTube videos from entertainment to economics and finance. Her background in theatre enables her to connect to social aspects of various issues.

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