Is the internet closing our minds? (And our dogs’ too.)

The internet is a funny thing. Everyone has their own perspective on it, but there seems to be a general consensus amongst the learned on one aspect: that the Internet has helped make people and societies more open and free to new ideas and influences.

Well. Not sure if that’s really true. In fact, the internet, esp. social media (we’re looking at you, Facebook), seems to be making everyone increasingly uniform in thoughts and behaviours. It is slowly erasing the quirks of individuality and spreading a web of conformity across its population, where people who like cats and tag holiday pictures from Goa are ‘cool’, and the ones who dislike cute animals or the DSLR disease are just weird.

Of course, the web lets us indulge in every possible hobby or interest, from philately to light-saber fighting, which is great. But the uniqueness is becoming increasingly confined to the niches, and the masses are becoming more closed to new ideas or challenging thoughts.

Perhaps the best example is the online matrimony business – one of the few which have been wildly successful since the beginning of the internet era in India.

A quick glance at the matrimony websites will show you how they work. They positively encourage you to choose people from your own caste. Whatever caste you can dream of has its own yourcastematrimony.com. Not just the obvious ones like jat matrimony, gupta matrimony, brahmin matrimony, etc. Even the most obscure ones. Do the Khandelwals really only want to marry other Khandelwals?

Perhaps it merely reflects the way Indians work. But the internet here is not helping anyone be more open. If anything, it’s manipulating the caste-focused culture to help us be more inbred. Without it, if your options were limited to relatives and neighbourhood aunties, you may still have had to find someone different. But now you can search for people with the same surname from across the country, even the world.

Google also throws up sites claiming ‘caste no bar’ in their URL. The first thing they tell you is that they have “18 different community channels to choose your life partner from your own caste”. Then there’s a little link at the bottom for ‘caste non-oriented people’. Clicking on it opens a woman’s profile, where the 5th word in her description is, well, her sub-caste.

Maybe, as a capitalistic enterprise, you have to give people what they want. But don’t you also have a social responsibility to encourage ideas and behaviours that could help our societies be more open and free-minded?

On the bright side, there is also a dog matrimony site. They offer Arabian Nights-themed weddings for your dogs, followed by “We are against animal cruelty”. I don’t know about you, but to the male author of this blog, it sure sounds cruel to be dressed (against your will) as Aladdin on your wedding day.