One of the most frequently googled post on this blog is Indian Women: Beware of Orkut. They use many different keywords to land on that post: photo misuse on Orkut, indian women abuse orkut, and so on. Sometimes, Orkutians post a link to my article while ‘scrapping’ their friends in Orkut, and I get several hits from within Orkut itself.
Well, we all know how Orkut is being misused, so why do Indians, especially women and girls, stick with it when there are better alternatives available? Facebook for example, offers some of the best privacy features among all the social networking sites. You can choose who can see your profile and what information can or cannot be searched. You can pick and choose select parts of your profile for a select group of friends. You can control what information is shared when you message or send a friend request.
If one is familiar with Facebook’s privacy features, one will feel naked in Orkut. So why do Indian girls and women still stick to Orkut? Bollywood stars have already started migrating in droves from Orkut to Facebook. Will their fans and the Indian public follow?
Here are some points to ponder:
1. ‘Critical mass’ is a significant factor in such communities. Most people will join what most others have already joined, propelling the #1 even higher in numbers. There are over 7 million Indian Orkut visitors in July 2007, compared to 0.78 million for Facebook. Orkut is MTV’s Youth Icon 2007. Another factor of course, is general knowledge and awareness of the Internet and other alternatives.
2. As per Agencyfaqs citing ComScore: “Facebook grew phenomenally in India between April and June 2007, attracting an additional 323,000 unique visitors. The privacy issue, especially for women users, is reflected in the better representation they have on Facebook. While 40.7 per cent of unique visitors from India on Facebook are women, they constitute 28 per cent in Orkut.” So, at least some Indian women are already getting wiser!
3. However strong privacy features you introduce in a social networking platform, it cannot protect you always. Like they say, if you make something idiot-proof, someone will invent a better idiot!
4. More intriguingly, I wonder if the lack of privacy features in Orkut are uniquely tempting for the Indian youth. Is our repressive social culture driving our youth to sneak and peek into each other’s Orkut profiles instead? Our present social context bans dating. Does Orkut provide a safe way to get to know some more information about that heartthrob in your college? Does it help screen that boy or girl your parents introduced to you on your own terms and on your own platform, away from your parents scrutiny?
If that is indeed the case, then networks like Facebook will never gain critical volume in India. What do you think?
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