This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Angshuman Choudhury. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Am A 90s Kid And I Blame The Internet For Robbing Me Of Everything

More from Angshuman Choudhury

I am, what they call, a ‘90s kid’ – born and raised in the era of the TV news, newspaper editorials, personal computer, Cartoon Network, and dial-up internet. Mine is a peculiar generation that has witnessed not just the historic turn of a millennium, but also a radical shift in the very nature of our collective and interdependent existence.

In stark contrast to those days of slothful living, I now live in a time that is visibly different. In some ways, the 90s were the quintessential calm before the storm, and in retrospect, there was certainly an overwhelming sense of finality to that ‘calm’. In other words, we are now in the eye of a storm. A storm called the ‘internet’. Thanks to the maddeningly rapid technological advancements of the past one decade, we dipped our toes into the ‘information revolution’ – the age of hyperconnectivity and social media – even before we could fathom the full length and breadth of it.

As a cross-generational phenomenon, the so-called information revolution has had some drastic consequences – ones that most of us haven’t even come to terms with yet.

Loss Of Individual Autonomy

The post-Cold War generation has witnessed the dramatic rise of the behemoth called the internet and its beast-child – social media. Despite several quarters of the society underplaying the internet’s effects, the average individual was not going to be the same ever again. Neither was human society as a macro unit.

The information age, besides shrinking civilisation, has also decisively impacted its individual constituents. Earlier, every human being enjoyed a certain degree of conscious autonomy. This autonomy was based on two things: a voluntary sense of isolation from broader knowledge systems; and the ownership of endemic information.

Today, with the coming of social media, both have unravelled.

From Isolation To Hyperconnection

Before the internet age (as it stands on this date), the individual – as a social being – enjoyed a significant sense of isolation from the world around them.

Take for example the TV news. As a mode of information dissemination, it was (and still is) a staccato piece of broadcasting technology. The average household, owing to its preoccupations of survival (like a 9 to 5 job), consumed TV news only at certain points of the day. The ‘prime-time’ slot, which usually falls in the late evening hour of 8-10 pm, is precisely a product of this time-specific consumption of big information. For the rest of the time in the day, the individual is more or less isolated from the din of the bigger world around.

The same goes for the printed media. The newspaper used to arrive early morning, and spoke of the happenings of the previous day. Most often, it served as nothing more than a morning accessory, just like a toothbrush, a cup of hot coffee and biscuits. The pages flipped forward with every passing minute were put to rest at the strike of the dog’s hour when belts buckled in and ties were fastened. The time for office. Eight hours later, the eyes returned to the TV screen and opinions began to crystallise. When the week winded, it was time for magazines, which were basically broad throwbacks to the previous fortnight. More opinions.

The intervening time, between the newspaper and the prime time TV, was one of an island-like existence when the individual remained largely cut off from manufactured information, plastic opinion, and the intrusive outreach of corporations. Individuals were left to themselves, as if separated from the outside world by an endearing glass wall.

This has changed. As active cyber citizens, we are now all hooked into a massive continuum of information by virtue of something as small as carrying a smartphone. Thanks to 24×7 push notifications, the ‘cool down’ period between the morning newspaper and evening prime-time TV does not exist anymore. The average smartphone user is continually receiving, processing, and absorbing an extraordinary amount of information all day long.

Most pivotal aspect of this is our dual role as receivers: we are all both perpetrators and victims of the pandemic web of knowledge, opinion, and propaganda. When we tweet, we perpetrate. When we like a tweet, we fall prey.

Besides the fact that now individuals have all day long to think about the happenings of the world beyond their immediate leg space and create corresponding opinions, the direct outcome of this informational integration has been the steady erosion of the individual’s physical sense of isolation.

Today, the everyday cyber citizen would find it difficult to be ‘alone’ in the truest sense, even in the remotest mountain and the deepest jungle by courtesy of the near-ubiquitous cellphone signal and the vibratory ping of the device. Scroll up, scroll down. Like. Comment. Share. Retweet. Reply. Repeat. This almost goes on forever, save for our sleeping hours.

This stretching and flattening of the information matrix has rendered us daylong consumers of a multitude of information. The immediate implication of this is an overall contraction of the distance and sharpening of the dialectic between the individual and society. The broader implication is a convergence of knowledge systems. All either for the good or the bad.

Is this gradual erosion of isolation a ‘loss’? That depends on how naturally inclined each individual is towards being ‘left to be.’ Yet, to say the least, isolation is an entitlement that every individual must have without any precondition. With the bulging dominance of the internet, we are fast losing this natural right.

Ceding Ownership of Information

As far back as I can remember (which isn’t as far back as it sounds), before the internet age hit us in the face, individuals had ownership of information, notwithstanding state surveillance in some countries. This could be metadata about their own selves or original knowledge that they synthesised. We used to be in control of how much of us others needed to know. We were our own filters.

But, the average individual today – at least the one who has an active social media account – is no more the sole proprietor of endemic knowledge. By ‘endemic’, I mean the information that is exclusive to oneself, either organically seeded or externally acquired. Today, we are plugged into a global super-network of information that is much more pervasive and controlling than most of us might believe. It is almost like an all-encompassing living organism that constantly feeds into and off us.

As concurred by political scientist Ronald Deibert of the Citizen Lab, University of Toronto, with the popularity of the internet, we have begun to turn our lives outward while the institutions that are larger than us (corporations, governments, organisations, etc.) have begun to direct their informational resources inward – towards users, citizens, subjects. This convergence is remarkably decisive and will be the single-most important point of inflection insofar as the future of the modern social contract is concerned.

In simple words, we have lost the sole proprietorship of information that emanates from us or directly relates to us, while at the same time, the ‘spatial’ aspect of our existence has blurred.

Today, both our next-door neighbour and a stranger sitting 12,000 kms away, are fairly aware of our house’s layout and wall colours. Both of them are also equally aware of what we feel about specific issues, say – transgender rights. Add to this list of ‘knowers’ the country’s government and the government next door. And your cell phone service provider.

From big data platforms to state authorities, a host of seemingly bigger-than-life entities have systematically wrested the exclusive data linked to the individual: from food tastes to political leanings. Even carnal desires.

Has the ceding of this individual autonomy happened voluntarily? Yes and no. It would be fair to say with some amount of determinism that the takeover of big technology was inevitable with the creation of an unregulated public space like the internet. Hence, it’s futile to blame the surfers of the wave, since technology, historically speaking, has always been subsuming. The printing press subsumed oral histories, the wheel subsumed physical movement, the radio subsumed in-person outreach, and the telephone (partially) subsumed human interactions. Hence, Facebook is not the culprit. The internet is, if at all.

This means that while no one pushed us into cyberspace at gunpoint, the tide of the times and upward progression of forces beyond our direct control (like technology) pulled us all into it. More crucially, we gave in at a subconscious level.

However, that does not preclude the demand for openness from the errant cyberspace. As far as taking back some of our rightful autonomy of existence is concerned, it might not be too late. The first step is to realise and inform ourselves of how much autonomy have we ceded. This could start with something as simple as understanding the end-user agreements of the apps we use every day.

The second step is to pull parts of it back by demanding absolute transparency and accountability from the landlords of the internet: Facebook, Google, Twitter. Not saying they are going to oblige us. But, the demand is the bare minimum we can and must make.

Needless to say, we stand at the crossroads of history today. We might just be hurtling down a rusty track on a rickety coach, and not even realising it. This calls for serious introspection. The internet, many argue, was created as a force for good. But, to take it at face value would be to sign a collective death warrant while numbing our own senses.

You must be to comment.

More from Angshuman Choudhury

Similar Posts

By Anmona Handique

By Sarika Verma

By Manisha Singh

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below