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A large section of young urban Indians, especially men and the relatively less privileged, appear to be disillusioned with the digital world, the latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey suggests.

The overall figures are positive, because the others, such as older and well-to-do Indians, and young women, are happier. Around 60% of the 10,271 respondents said social media and mobile apps had been a positive influence on society and culture. Two-thirds said they had made life convenient, and made them more aware about the world. A narrower majority (56%) said the digital phenomenon had enriched their lives.

Most urban Indians give a nod to increasing digitization of life 
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Most urban Indians give a nod to increasing digitization of life 

However, post-millennial respondents (those born after 1996), who have grown up almost entirely in the digital age, were nearly evenly split when asked whether it had made their lives better or had made them compare their lives with others’. Around 44% found a negative impact of the digital era on society. As respondents got older, the responses got more positive.

All in all, when asked to rate the digital world on four aspects, 48% respondents saw the negative side in two or more cases. Among post-millennials, this was 52%; among those who had not studied beyond school, this was true for 55%.

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The survey, held in June and July jointly by the Indian arm of the global market research firm YouGov, Mint, and the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research, was the eighth in a series of bi-annual online surveys aimed at examining the aspirations, anxieties, and attitudes of India’s digital natives.

Gender divergence

Often linked with gendered abuse and misogyny, the internet is also where many women have found freedom and a sense of solidarity away from patriarchal structures. It seems the latter sentiment holds more value: women (55%) were more likely to be happy with the digital revolution than men (48%). Young men were the unhappiest lot: while 62% of under-26 women saw a positive impact on society, only 53% of men in that age group said so. However, women aged over 41 had a negative outlook relative to men in their age group, an exception to the trend.

It must be noted that women are far less likely than men to use smartphones and access the web in India, and this survey reflects the views of those already with some access. The survey covered largely affluent households (based on ownership of consumer goods). Respondents were across 204 towns and cities, a large section (62%) of whom were born after 1989.

Online politics

Political discourse is an overpowering element of the online world, especially social media. The survey found distinct links between political affiliations and how Indians felt about the digital arena. Supporters of regional parties were more likely than supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress to see the online world as problematic. Among those who felt India’s democracy had deteriorated in the past decade, this sentiment was more common: 39% felt the online world had left them disconnected with society, 34% said it had left them more confused, 48% said it made them compare their lives with others’, and 46% felt it had had a negative influence on society. Among those who felt democracy had improved, the figures were markedly lower in each case: 33%, 30%, 42%, and 37%, respectively.

The perception of an improved democracy is more common among BJP supporters (39%) than those who favour a different party (23%), we reported earlier this week.

Digital happiness

One question in the survey sought to understand how satisfied Indians were with six aspects of their lives: family, social life, city or town, achievements, the country’s political scenario, and career. Those who were negative on the digital world also exhibited much lower satisfaction in these aspects of life.

Individuals who were negative on all four questions on the digital world gave an average satisfaction rating of 19 out of 30 for life. Those who picked the positive option in all four questions rated their life 21.6 on 30. This finding shows undeniable linkages between the digital world and overall quality of life in today’s times.

Major findings of the survey, related to economic and political outlook of respondents, were released earlier this week (“A portrait of the evolving Indian"). Raw data and methodology now available.

Elsewhere in Mint

In Opinion, Harsh V. Pant writes on the future of India's global pursuit of self interest. Neera Nundy & Rumana Hamid tell how the tradition of India's philanthropic business families matters today. From faux-convents to Saraswati Shishu Mandirs to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Anurag Behar tells what shaped Indian education. Long Story tells how a company as old as independent India is innovating to fend off many upstarts.

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