Most people in the Western world and large sections in the rest of the world have a real life persona and an online persona. This is especially true of young people, also known as the Internet generation. Almost everybody these days communicates by email, rather than rely on the good old postal services. Texting and video chatting have become mainstream and e-commerce has willy nilly entered all our lives. Don’t we remit money or receive it into our bank accounts online, and haven’t we all used the credit card to make purchases online? We all swear by e-bay for God’s sake!
The point that one is trying to make here is that we have a very active online life that co-exists with our offline life. But a debate really arises when we have to choose between performing the same function in the traditional or off line fashion or the contemporary online way. Take the case of making payments. You have the option of writing a cheque or making an online transfer. Cheques are relatively safer, but can’t match the speed or convenience of an online money transfer.
Another example is socialising. Communicating via the net obliterates distance and time differences, but if you want to enjoy a coffee together with your friend or watch the sunset together, you have to do it offline. But the wonderful thing is that as online technology evolves we may be able to even do things that we right now consider impossible. Like smelling coffee. The coming days will see the Online vs Off line debate getting more and more interesting.
What makes online famous a different kettle of fish?
Now you might turn around and say that to me it does not matter that got famous the old fashioned way, without having to use the Internet, and what ultimately matters is the result. You may be right and you may be wrong. While it is true that one can get famous using traditional media like TV, newspapers and magazines, one cannot claim that these media represent you and what you have comprehensively. Getting famous using the Internet on the other hand lets your target audience know you and what you stand for more intimately. They can personally connect with you on your blog, and you can chat up with them as frequently as you want. You can use analytical tools that will let you know precisely who is interested in your offering and how many of those are establishing contact.
The thing about being spotted on the Internet is that it is a very democratic and a cheap as well as fair process where everybody gets a shot at being successful, whereas in the traditional model you need to knows how to work the levers of the system for things to really work for you. Entertainer Paula Abdul one time judge of American Idol felt that there weren’t enough avenues for young people to go out there, showcase their talent and get famous. So she launched an online service called Audition Booth which lets budding talents upload their videos which will then be available to talent scouts. They can also search the site for upcoming gigs and auditions and send across their credentials. This site is free for people to use, though there is a premium service as well which is available for a charge.
Look at this in another manner. In the old days one relied on one’s family, community, society and church to get along in life.At that time one needed that support. As time went along and technology reduced our dependence on people, one’s number of friends and acquaintances dropped dramatically. In the modern era, the time immediately preceding the Internet saw most people having about three people they counted as friends. This was fine except that you could not use the three to spread the word about say the new book you wrote. You would have to pay professionals to do that.
With the advent of Internet all of that has changed. The average person has more than a hundred friends on the various social networking sites and these are a valuable resource in case you want the word spread about something. Word can spread like a viral infection on the Internet and make a mega celebrity out of nobody in a matter of two or three days. This even has a term-viral marketing. So you see the Internet has changed the rules of the game completely and the goal posts have been moved a lot closer for everyone’s convenience.
Be known online
The online world has assumed a huge amount of significance in today’s times and this is only going to grow and grow. It would therefore stand you in very good stead to mark your presence in it in a very telling way.You simply have to develop your social presence in a manner that you are effectively able to leverage your attributes, skills, likes and dislikes to a vast and appropriate audience.
Social networking sites led by Facebook and Twitter are fast and ruthlessly efficient enablers of this- far more effective than traditional media like newspapers and television, and best of all cheaply available and accessible to everyone.Today the youth are defining and constantly re-shaping and evolving the digital world by their socialising, entertaining, learning and studying and following the latest trends online. You are not a part of it, you are dead. Period.
In order to be heard you have to be on top of the form. E-mail and Instant Messaging are baby steps in this world. You have to be part of online communities where you contribute actively and constantly interact while at the same time learning to innovate. Be it blogging, web-casting, trending, on-line trading-your transactions will build up for you an online profile by which people will gauge you. Much like in the world of finance, each country or for that matter each individual has a credit rating, so it is in the world of the Internet. You have to make your presence felt.
The power of the Internet as a harbinger of change was brought home by the highly effective way in which Arab youth were able to harness its power to bring about The Arab Spring. This was something the previous generations could not achieve, as they did not have the tremendous power of the Internet at their disposal. We are in the throes of the mighty digital revolution and the youth are the ones who are driving it and it is in their individual interest to put their individual stamp on it.
Uninterrupted Economic Success
The Internet is a medium that can be effectively used to achieve overnight success. Now whether this success is a flash in the pan or sustainable over a long period of time depends upon how you play the game. Overnight success does not come to many and the lucky few who get it might have worked really hard to achieve it or might have been plain lucky, but what is important is how they manage it, or whether they are able to sustain it or indeed grow it.
The Internet not only empowers the individual but by extension the community, the nation and finally the world. In countries like India for example with every passing year Internet penetration increases and with it increases the opportunity for the Indian youth who have already gained a formidable reputation for their IT prowess, to make India the crucible of new ideas and innovation.
This has the potential to pitch- fork the Indian nation way ahead of where it is now and quite rapidly, and truly become the world’s economic power house. India with its democracy, rule of law and well established institutions patterned after those of the West is perhaps better equipped to achieve this than an at present richer, but dictatorial China, which denies its citizens the freedom to think freely and therefore innovate, a prerequisite in this bold new world of the Internet with its ever evolving and changing by the minute paradigm.
Truly living the Internet life will be the ultimate game changer for mankind and we are in the throes of a lifestyle metamorphosis which is of no less significance than the momentous occasion millions of years ago when man first learnt to walk upright. Nothing is going to be the same again.