Is the quest for easy money becoming a grand delusion for young Kashmir?

In his Class 8, Moonis is already building castles in the air. Hailing from a lower-middle class family of Kashmir, his wishful thinking stems from his online exposure, engagement and exploits. He reckons that he can be one of those internet millionaires seen as the poster boys and girls of new-age success stories. But this is where his grand delusion lies.

Moonis is part of Generation Alpha mostly raised with YouTube cartoon-induced fantasies—rather than their parental tough love aimed at making them realistic in life. Their screen-upbringing has already made them tech-savvy from the word go itself. And now, in their early teens, Moonis and his tribe are relying heavily on the online means of making identity.

“But this is where the problem lies,” says Seher Sehreen, a Sociologist with extensive research on the impact of the Internet on the New Generation. “This early exposure is a big issue. These kids need to first come of age and understand different aspects of life, culture and social behaviour. In the long run, this mindless internet obsession is going to leave them high and dry.”

But what Seher says has already become a rat race among Kashmiri youngsters raised in a society driven by Domino Effect.

Quest for Quick Means

Apart from hasty internet fame making these youngsters resort to social media stunts—like viral martial-art antics, or slapstick entertainment—the motive remains to gather more traction and traffic.

“It has unfortunately become a blind pursuit now,” Seher continues. “Who cares about rightful social behaviour when your clown conduct can fetch you audience in droves and dozens. Did you see how one self-proclaimed ‘Cheetah’ triggered a fan-storm at Achabal Park this Eid? Such endorsements, no matter how insignificant, are always going to attract more attention.”

But beyond the internet optics, there’s much more to this trend. Many see it as a growing trivialization and a deceptive chain of events being amplified by social media.

“The thing is, most of these young lots want to become CarryMinaties or Dhruv Ratheeies of their own right now,” believes Irtiza Jameel, a college lecturer. “Such stunts have already reduced our mainstream media to a mere clown mike show, and made our social media a dark humour. Everyone who thinks s/he is someone, dominates the space with her/his buffoonery. This is now becoming a false notion of making easy money.”

But Easy Money Is Not for Beginners

Noted motivation coach and entrepreneur Surojit Mahato warns that making money online is not easy for beginners. Just like any other profession, he asserts, it’s a lot of hard work. But just like any other business, there’s risk involved.

To elucidate his point, Mahato gives an example: “Think about it like catching fish in the ocean. You are a new fisherman, and you go fishing into the ocean. It’s your first day. You see other’s catching fish with ease, and celebrating. It looks super-easy. But you can’t. Not even a single one even after trying for hours. You end up feeling frustrated, and think they must have some sort of trick to do this. And you decide to quit without trying any more.

What’s happening here is you are seeing the end result, and not the years of hard work. Your fellow fishermen have tried and failed hundreds of times and know exactly what works, where to look for fish, which kind of nets to use, they understand the movement of fish, weather conditions, etc. You need to be patient. You might be new to the business and in the first phase of the learning curve.”

But then, such expert advice hardly finds a resonance in the valley where many youngsters are losing their family savings in the name of online investments. The motive remains the same—making fortunes overnight.

A Web of Deception

At a time when Kashmir is getting rattled by money-doubling scams, Cyber Police Station has become a distressed hangout for many online victims. Some of them arrive to file their fraud reports. “This place is our last hope,” says Tehmeena (not her real name), a student lately duped by internet cons. “I was lured to invest my savings into some online app, but it proved to be a trap.”

While cops are figuring out the ever-evolving online module and modus operandi behind these online fraud cases, the cyber station in Srinagar has issued a stern warning regarding the proliferation of fake investment apps.

Through these applications, conmen lure people with promises of lucrative returns on their investments. But behind these platforms, lies a web of deception. “Citizens must verify the authenticity of these investment apps by cross-referencing information, checking user reviews, and scrutinizing the credentials of the companies behind them,” the cyber cops say.

But Boys Still Go for Broke

Despite these stark warnings and alarming frauds, many youngsters influenced by the reel culture of making an overnight fortune are wilfully entering cul-de-sac. They’re ready to risk everything for bigger rewards online. And this is where the menace of online gambling comes into play.

“The normalisation of online gambling and betting apps in Kashmir is worrisome,” writes netizen Rouf Sadiq Tantray on his social media handle. “It is a greater menace than drugs in my opinion. People here irrespective of age, but mostly youth are spending money, gambling, in hopes of winning and earning easy money.

People have lost their sense of halal and haram earning. For every person that wins big in this way, hundreds lose a much bigger amount. This needs to be addressed at all levels, especially pulpits of our mosques, schools and colleges.”

But lack of institutional intervention is already encouraging schoolboys like Moonis to snuff out their pocket money and some distress amount on these online apps. And since there’s hardly any fairytale ending in the algorithmic world, the 8th-grader often loses his calm and concentration. This is where, many say, society needs to step up and tame the tiger before it goes wild.

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