Sunday, August 24, 2014

Social Media and Nepal's Senior Citizens

Rabin Man Shakya

Social media is fast changing the perspectives and lifestyle of the people across the world. Even in countries like Nepal, social media is creating a new and diverse audience for news and views making deep inroads into the life of the people.

But, senior citizens, the septuagenarian and octogenarian people of Nepal are still finding their footing less and less when it comes to social media. So why are the majority of Nepal's senior citizens lagging behind in the social media and Internet use?

In the system of use of social media and Internet by the total population, the ranking of Nepal may still be one of the lowest in the world. Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries of the world where smart phones, tablets and laptops are still considered to be luxury. No one disputes the fact that the economic situation has worsened in Nepal and development indicators present a dismal scenario. For this, the blame is attributed to political instability and economic uncertainty gripping the country. There is a sense that despite political gains (toppling of monarchy) in recent years, Nepal's economic and social trajectory is still highly uncertain.

Illiteracy especially the adult illiteracy is one of the highest in Nepal. Because of illiteracy, majority of Nepal's senior citizens can barely handle and use cell phones, let alone use smart phones and laptops. Electricity is an essential component for using laptops and smart phones, but Nepal is constantly and perennially short of power. Despite vast hydro power potential, load shedding has been extended up to 14 hours a day. And, also, there is no electricity, at all, in most of the rural mountainous areas of Nepal. Hence, Internet access is limited mainly in the urban areas. Lackadaisical government policy vis-a-vis attracting senior citizens' interest in Internet use is equally responsible for this.

But here in the US, the scenario is totally different. According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, approximately 87 per cent of American senior citizens use online search engines such as Google, and a study conducted by the Nielsen Company found that 88.6 percent of American senior citizens use the Internet to check their e-mails.

The fact that majority of American septuagenarian, octogenarian and even centenarians are using the Internet is the testimony to the fact that age is no factor when learning the ins and outs of social media. So given the appropriate atmosphere, opportunities and training, Nepalese senior citizens can do the same. With everything just a click away in the age of smart phones, social media has served as a primary channel of giving full vent to happiness, sadness, feelings, emotions, criticisms and suggestions.

Becoming a part of the digital era could have changed the lives of  the Nepalese senior citizens. Social media could have shown them that there is so much going on in the world. Today more than ever, the social media is exploding with new information, photos, comments, quotes, articles and views, and it is just sad to note that the participation of Nepalese senior citizens in the social media is still negligible.

Right now, social media is deeply embedded with the educated-urban people of Nepal and social media to become the essential activity of the Nepalese senior citizens is still a dream that is difficult to come true any time soon.

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