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This Is What Happens When Millions Of People Suddenly Get The Internet - BuzzFeed News
"Less than 1% of Myanmar had internet access until 2014. Now the country is getting online at an astonishing rate — but so is fake news and anti-Muslim sentiment. Sheera Frenkel finds out what happens when everyone you know joins Facebook at the same time."



"YANGON, Myanmar — The internet brought Donald Trump to Myanmar. Or, at least that’s how Shar Ya Wai first remembers hearing about the Republican president-elect.

“One day, nobody knew him. Then, everyone did. That’s what the internet is. It takes people who say crazy things and makes them famous,” the 19-year-old student said.

Like most people in this country of 50 million, which only recently opened up to the outside world, Shar Ya Wai is new to the internet. And on this day, she had walked purposefully into a phone shop in central Yangon to buy her first smartphone, a simple model by China’s Huawei that is popular among her friends. “Today I’ll buy this phone,” she said. “I guess I’ll find out how crazy [the internet] really is.”

It’s not that she’d never seen the internet before. She’d tried to stalk ex-boyfriends through a friend’s Facebook page and caught glimpses of the latest Thai pop bands on her uncle’s old tablet, which he bought secondhand a year ago. But her forays into the internet have been brief and largely left her perplexed. Here was a public space where everyone seemed to have so much to say, but it was disorganized, bombastic, overwhelming. It felt like the polar opposite of the quiet, sheltered life she’d lived until recently.

“My father is a measured person. He speaks carefully and always wanted us to speak carefully too,” she said, smoothing down her waist-length black hair, betraying her nerves. “I’m more energetic, like my mom. We speak a lot more, but it is nothing like what I see on the internet.”

It was her father who wanted her to put off buying a phone until she was old enough to “use it safely,” though she wasn’t really sure what that meant. She thought he might be referring to the men who post crass and vulgar photos online. Or he might be worried about the various scammers who are increasingly targeting the nascent internet in Myanmar. She wasn’t sure because no one had ever told her how to stay safe online — what to do, or say, or write.

Still, on this day in mid-July, Shar Ya Wai pushed herself out of a crowded store in central Yangon, holding the cellophane-wrapped cell phone as though it were an injured bird. Her fingers cradled the top and felt for the button that would turn it on, but then hesitated.

“Maybe I should wait until later. I should wait until I’m with my family,” she said, and then admitted, “I’m scared.”

She has reason to be afraid. For nearly five decades, Myanmar lived under military dictatorships that suppressed all forms of dissent and limited free speech, leading to US and European sanctions that largely cut off the country from the rest of the world. That changed in 2011, when the military junta was officially dissolved and a nominally civilian government was established. In 2015, in the first national election since the military eased its hold, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party was voted into power. Of the changes to hit the largely Buddhist country since then, few have been as drastic — and as rapid — as the sudden arrival of the internet to the general public. It revolutionized everything, from how people interact with one another to how they get their news, once the exclusive purview of hyper-regulated state-sanctioned media."
myanmar  mobileonly  mobile  phones  internet  sheerafrenkel  technology  news  media  online  facebook  smartphones  viber  socialmedia 
december 2016 by robertogreco

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