Watching Social Network in India

I have been watching and adopting various social media networks since
2005, when I joined hi5! I immediately moved to Orkut and this is
where I built my first social network. When Facebook opened to India
in 2006, I moved there as well and did invite my school friends there.

I have been watching social networks to try and leverage that to help
my space plans. Although I watched social networks, I just didn’t get
to the part about leveraging social networks but did build a cool
space organisation. I just stuck to making my colleagues in the
organisation friends, first on Orkut and then on Facebook.

Till date, I feel more comfortable leaving a scrap on Orkut than
posting a ‘hi…hello…how are you…fine…ok’ thread on Facebook.
Events like fraandship requests and bad press pushed people out of
Orkut and onto Facebook.

My college friends stayed on Orkut initially and then moved to
Facebook when peers told them being on Facebook was considered cooler
and because many girls moved on to Facebook.

The fraandship requests originates from settings where people have
come on to a social network platform and didn’t really know what to do
and just extended their Yahoo! Messenger experience onto the social
network. I think Orkut really helped polish many of the people there
who then carried the rules into Facebook.

I still remember scraps on Orkut about: not posting a scrap in your
own scrapbook, not trying to friend people you do not know and
expecting introductions when you add a person as a friend. These were
then also circulated among the offline channels – mainly through SMS.

As it has grown, social networks in India have also transformed
offline meetups because of a segregation in the kind of people who
hung around in each of these spaces.

The fraandship thing came as more of the rural and lower tier towns of
India came onto Orkut and began trying to make friends in the city
they planned on moving to. Urban and middle class Orkut users made fun
of this and proliferated this across initially to humiliate people who
didn’t use proper spelling or grammer in their introductions of
friendship requests. Later this was used to reinforce the fact that
only known people are welcome as friends.

This also co-incided with the offline hang out culture. This shifted
as the more well to do kids hung out at the Cafe Coffee Days and
Baristas whereas the middle class and the lower income group kids hung
around inside of college canteens and wada pav stalls. Slowly,
Baristas and Cafe Coffee Days realised that more money could be made
inviting the middle class in as well and they moved to lower prices.

Funny enough, this coincided with the time that the bulk of Indians
moved onto Facebook and this network reinforced the coffee shop,
McDonalds and pizza culture more.

We’re in an interesting time in social networks in India – at a time
when the crowd in Orkut has started moving to Facebook. Mainly because
brands have been using these to push prices down and also using the
network to hold and provide access to events. The Orkut experience has
made this crowd wiser and has moderated them. But, also a new
generation is coming directly onto Facebook than through Orkut. Some
of my friends have started seeing the ‘fraandship-like’ trend showing
up on Facebook as well. I haven’t seen it either on Orkut or Facebook
other than on other people’s scrap book.

Facebook also slowly pushed us off the ‘introduce yourself’ habit of
our Orkut days by not providing access to the wall without being a
friend in the privacy settings. More people are now also not using the
‘add a message’ option that appears when you ask a person to become
their friend.

The real thing to see now is how such a closed network like Facebook
will teach new comers on the unwritten network rules. I see this
happening in the offline world and some people say Facebook is very
complicated and Orkut has become complicated but is now resembling a
ghost town.

Today, I started scrapping on Orkut again. Watch this space as I post
more of my social network watching here.

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