I have completed Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai with specialization in Community Organization and Development Practices. After my Masters, I was part of a Non-profit Organization which works for women and children welfare. Currently, I am a research scholar with specialization in women’s studies from TISS, Hyderabad. My dissertation focuses on the experiences and disparities faced by underprivileged women of the society. In this article, I would be sharing my understanding on potential treats of Social networking (i.e. Facebook) with suggestions for improvement.
Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter has been growing rapidly in past years with now over 2 billion users. It can be described as web application that allows users to create their semi-public profile, i.e. a profile with mixture of public and private information, communicate with those who are their connections (friends), and build an online community. One of its features is friend finder that allows social network users to search for their acquaintances and then build up their own online community. Therefore, now the individual are not just content consumers instead they are content creator and manager.
According to research study conducted by Columbia University and UC Berkeley on 260 randomly selected Facebook users, almost 95% of the participants have experienced sensitivity towards content posted and 37% has raised general concerns of sharing their content with friends. In lieu of above figures, a workshop was conducted by Centre for Social Research in U.P. college Varanasi, and shared preventive measures from threats like profile hacking and duplicity. The workshop exposed me to the pressing concern on importance of privacy with respect to social networking.
Based on my understanding of the problem described in the workshop, I came up with few suggestions for Facebook organization in order to maintain privacy and protect the users from fraudulent activities: Often we experience the disparity between the desired and actual privacy settings, which makes women vulnerable to deceiving, e.g. many women entrepreneur advertise their products through Facebook has been victim of duping as profile visitor can copy their products/ideas which results in increasing the cases of plagiarism.
Secondly, the default or “recommended” privacy setting for all content is “Everyone”. According to research study by Amazon Mechanical Turk, 36% of content remain shared with the default privacy setting, which is “Everyone”, and so users share their content with all 750 million Facebook users if they decline/forget to modify their privacy settings. Therefore it is necessary to generate awareness among users, and improve privacy concern for profile visibility.
Facebook offers users the option of sharing photos with networks websites, this feature creates potential threats, as general public can access those photos and can exploit the identity of the user. Facebook’s privacy settings are based on photo album rather than individual photo, so each photo should be monitored individually rather than in a group.
Lastly, Facebook should develop a mechanism wherein users can group their friends on the basis of work, family, and friends and apply different privacy setting to each group. This will make the communication easier within a group avoiding unnecessary/irrelevant access.
The first, and most impactful thing that the #SocialSurfing workshop introduced us to was numbers. Numbers acquired on social media are a treasure trove of information, and more importantly, quantifiable data with scores of policy avenues. As the workshop showed, social media isn’t just about selfies and the gratification of egos. It’s about impact, connections, and reclaiming of safe spaces, both real and virtual.
Our generation lives in an interesting time- while on one hand, we are much more aware of the dangers surrounding us, on the other, we are also opening up to new experiences. This paradigm is an unknown territory, and we stumble. It’s difficult to navigate a world that’s still building itself, and that’s where the workshop succeeded in disseminating information. The smallest, most innocuous changes in social media habits can contribute to a safer experience, and the succinct, interactive format of the workshop made sure that these pointers weren’t just told, they were shown.
As a policy student, two things excite me- data, and the possibility of making cohesive, concrete change. Social media is, at this moment, the most incredible platform for the same. Data collection, especially in a developing country like India, is difficult because of various hindrances, and these are augmented by the red-tapiesm surrounding us. Social media, as the aforementioned numbers prove, can be harnessed as an incredible source of this data. It’s accessible, easily quantifiable, and aggregates something that has confounded policymakers till now- the depth, breadth, and expanse of human expression.
This leads to social change through social media. The workshop had an extremely fun activity that involved us in the creation of social media campaigns. The idea of using social media to invoke social reactions isn’t a new one. However, the workshop tackled the one major weak spot of such campaigns, that is, the propensity to weaken with time. It explained the various components of a successful campaign to us, and instead of pointing to where the previous attempts went wrong, it encouraged us to create innovative ways to make our campaigns sustainable. As policymakers, this was an exciting opportunity because it allowed us to implement theoretical knowledge in a real life situation.
This initiative’s focus on a gendered approach to social media security, especially on the idea of ‘counter speech’, was fascinating. It’s a false belief of many people that the virtual world is far removed from the ‘real one’. Today, these worlds merge, and the activities seen in one have direct implications on the other. Using social media to socialize people to help them understand the processes of privilege, and how to see through layers of negative perceptions isn’t just innovation. It’s the need of the hour. The fact that the Centre for Social Research is taking the initiative to approach the problem by directly reaching down to students through the #SocialSurfing workshops is very encouraging, and I’m glad I had an opportunity to be a part of the same.
A #SocialSurfing session was conducted on October 29th, 2015 by VAPP, in collaboration with CSR. Centre for Social Research, Delhi based NGO empowers the women and girls of India and trying to create fair and gender-just environment. This campaign on #SocialSurfing started in 2010 and over the five years it is trying to reach large section of society especially the youngsters to create positive atmosphere for gender sensitivity.
The session began with a discussion about social media : what it is, its evolution, primary users and outreach. Over time, we have seen social media nearly replace online news applications as well. #SocialSurfing apps like twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, instagram and many others. For an example, given the exceptionally fast 'refreshal rate' on Twitter, it is the platform people log on to, to check the credibility of an earthquake rumor they might have heard somewhere. Professional social media like LinkedIn provides a link between employers and employees, much like the employment agencies of current and yesteryear. This campaign helped us to understand the pros and cons of the social media and collaborate us for the #SocialSurfing campaign.
Our consent about what we view and post was spoken about. While we can control what we post, what we consume as we scroll through our news-feed is not entirely in our hands. One must think before posting anything on the social media because the use of social media is ubiquitous, your personal feelings go across to those who really have nothing to do with your life , that can be taken in a negative way and that’s what we are looking at , be it in metropolitan city or in a small town This campaign brought up the issues like Racism and patriarchy in the online world. To drive home the difference between virtual and real world interaction, an activity was conducted with two teams : one describing a picture with geometric shapes and the other attempting to replicate it. This enabled us to know the differences in perception from one person to another. There are possibilities when you are trying to convey a status or message that will reach all your connections, they might interpret it as other way, may be good or bad or may be out of context..
"Counter speech" (or the art of dealing with online hate speech) was a short film screened to show how students amassed support for a classmate bullied online for poor performance in a football match.
Based on the idea of counter speech, all attendees of the talk prepared a social media campaign with the material provided on wide ranging issues : beef ban, education system in India, metro buses.
An estimated 1.6 billion people will use social media by 2016. So the question is not whether we'll use it to not, it's how well we will use it and for this CSR is trying to spread awareness about. Last but not the least, it was an enriching and productive session.
Thank you !
The #SocialSurfing Workshop with the theme ‘Access is Empowerment’ was conducted in St.Xaviers College on 10th October 2016. The workshop was attended by students pursuing Masters in Public Policy. The workshop began with a video on origin of World Wide Web. Then we went on to examine what does social media mean to us, its function and the issues. A key point which was brought in the discussion was how social media can bring social change. This discussion revolved around the role social media played in the evolution of Jasmine Revolution or the Arab Spring as it is known commonly. The discussion moved on to Facebook, a social network site which played key role in this social revolution. One of the key issues of social networking site is security. So, the next part of the workshop was on highlighting key security features that Facebook offers its users. Since, 99% of the audience used Facebook, we were more or less aware of them. The next part was the most interesting session of the workshop. This session focussed on various policy issues that concern us with respect to social media since we were policy students. The focal points of discussion were around accessibility, cyber security and net neutrality. One of the students who was ‘differently abled’ brought out a very crucial perspective on accessibility. He/She said that the concept ‘accessibility for all’ includes people who are differently abled also. The final session of the workshop was the activity session wherein all of us had to split into groups and we had to design a campaign of our choice that we would want to start through Facebook. My group’s campaign was ‘Equality of E-quality’. This campaign was later declared as the winning campaign from our college. It was a great opportunity and a platform for me to interact on of the vital topics of discussion today in our country which is social media. This workshop has made me to look at social media critically. This is what I have taken from the workshop personally. This thought process has given me confidence to write for the Centre for Social Research peer reviewed journal ‘#SocialSurfing’. It is my privilege to inform that my abstract for the paper titled ‘Representation of Tamil Women in Tamil Songs: Creativity or Misogyny’ has been selected.
I would like to let you know that I'm a third year, Computer Science student who attended the workshop organized by Centre for Social Research. It wasn't until I took this workshop on "#SocialSurfing" that I realized how much I didn't know.
Very basic things which we operate almost daily like Facebook and other social networking sites, have so many dimensions which we are not aware of. This workshop outlined the safety features of Facebook and various security measures which could be taken by us. I learned the need to secure the data and the measures by which we can control the information we provide online. No, I don't need to be a genius to do this. I can simply start from where I am.
The message of #SocialSurfing was very conveniently passed through highly motivating and positive way which everyone could relate to.
Arnika ma'am, Hannah ma'am and Amitabh sir were very engaging, aware and enthusiastic! (I'm not good with remembering names but these people had amazing energy. How could I forget them?) The tangram game which was played by the teachers and the students was fun and challenging. It opened my mind to a new perspective on #SocialSurfing. The part where we talked about making online spaces more accessible to women was my favorite. I think it is the need of the hour to empower women in technical areas and let them create a whole new safer network.
Last part of the workshop was focused on how to create social media campaign. Different groups came up with different ideas. There were slogans, posters, songs and plays. It did not only gave me a platform to present my ideas, but also gave me a chance to interact with others and share viewpoints. After all, this is what #SocialSurfing is all about!
This very well conducted workshop was a treat for all IPites. The lessons I learned in these 4-5 hours are directly applicable to the social media platform and to life. For me, it was definitely, an eye opening and extremely informative experience. I'm very sure that anyone and everyone can benefit from these kind of workshops.
Way to go #SocialSurfers!
We live in a day and age where everything is readily available at our fingertips. One touch, one click and we have access to all information we could gather. But can we say that access is truly empowering? Internet/technology/social media can be empowering if it's done right. Internet is breaking down barriers and building bridges that support greater education, better health, career advancement and a strong global community through social media. Yes, it is empowering users and creating pathways to change, yet differences in access and entrenched sexism in societies limits how effective social media campaigns can be. But how do we define "access"? Is access inclusive? For persons with disabilities, accessibility means being able to use a product/device/service as effectively as a person without a disability. This means using inclusive design principles to make products/devices/services usable by a wider section of the population. Changing peoples' attitudes to disability is fundamental to achieving greater accessibility. The traditional view of disability is attempting to “fix” or rehabilitate a person to society's norms. The social model of disability aims to dismantle barriers so that a person with a disability can fully participate in the community. This more contemporary model emphasises a person's abilities rather than disabilities and encourages a person's independence and capacity by decreasing environmental barriers.
Persons with disabilities face as many different barriers as there are types and degrees of disability. For example, people with a visual impairment who use screen-reading software may be confronted by websites that have confusing navigation, or that lack descriptions of images or like my visually challenged classmate pointed out during the “Acess is empowerment” workshop, "Kuch websites pe bahaut zyada bheed baad hoti hai"; while people with a hearing impairment may be unable to participate in online conferencing because it lacks captioning. Through removing barriers, persons with disabilities will be better able to use and contribute to the richness of the Internet by participating independently in the communities of their choice.
#SocialSurfing/media, like everything else, has its pros and cons. The obvious good part is communication. While I am at it, I'm going to be honest. I can't go a day without Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp/Instagram. We don't need to see each other everyday to update each other about our respective lives. It's as easy as uploading a picture and people know which corner of the world I'm relaxing in. It's bridging the distance.
Social media has made it possible for like minded individuals to discuss issues of vital importance, widen their personal knowledge and discover things they never knew before. For example, people around the world are now more involved than ever in their country’s politics. A very good example currently is the chaos on the JNU campus. Brilliant, isn't it? Social media proved to be a boon for our PM Modi's 2014 general election campaign as well. Social media is great for non-profit organisations who are trying to create awareness of issues of empowerment, sexual harassment, etc. A recent successful campaign has been "Speak Out on Female Genital Mutilation". There are a gazillion reasons why we love social media.
But what do I absolutely loathe? Not being able to have my share of privacy. I miss my sense of peace and privacy. I miss it. I really do.
"To effectively communicate, we must realise that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others."
At the very outset, I feel it necessary to let you know that a few days before three representatives of the #SocialSurfing Workshop came to my university, I felt an undying urge to let go of the social bracket/structure that I grew up in. We had witnessed a theatrical play by Tanmai Group called 'Colour Of Trans' which delved into the unfathomable discrimination of the transgender community in India. Ashamed of being on the side of the guilty party, I wanted desperately to shake the system to its roots and change it. This workshop provided me with a makeshift, temporary platform to do just that and ultimately triggered this life-altering move.
Three young adults, 2 women and a man, came to discuss the workings of their project with incredible fervour. Initially, I was lost within the webs of my mind, but their enthusiasm caught my attention. They essentially spoke of the influence of Social Media in the lives of the youth and how communication has evolved over the years – its importance growing rapidly in the age of technology today. As a communication student who intends to pursue a career in New Media, I connected to every word that they said.
After an hour of discussion and activities which focused on the importance of communication between people who work together (which was extremely insightful and methodically profound), they gave us our final exercise. This exercise was the trigger that I mentioned earlier. What they asked us to do was simple, but the way I looked at it was slightly different from my fellow classmates. We were divided into about 5 (or so) groups and asked to make a social media campaign on a 'relevant issue'. Immediately, I found myself charged. This was now my stage - my first baby step in a battle I HAD TO win. Brainstorming with my friends/teammates, we made a campaign for Facebook using the hashtag - #FTheG. We had noticed that when one signs up to join Facebook, the option of choosing gender is restricted to either 'Male' or 'Female' giving no room for an alternate choice. The hashtag ergo implied both – 'Fuck The Gender' & 'Free The Gender' depending on how one looks at it. The former spoke for the group of transgender who did not wish to associate themselves with either male or female, and the latter allows for a transgender to be free from having to choose, even if they do identify with one particular gender. This was primarily because we now seem to live in a society that reduces us to mere numbers, groups, segments, structures when we are essentially – as conscience driven human beings – made of so much more. I, a woman of today's divisive world, stand by that very belief. Therefore, our suggested options for the Facebook Signup were NOYB (None Of Your Business) and Transgender (which merged the biological symbol of male and female) along with the previous options. We ended up winning the contest in our state of Telangana and it was a big moment of triumph for me as I felt a great sense of pride and fulfilment in carrying it out. It was a feeling like never before, and for that experience, I am extremely grateful.
I'd like to give you reasons to choose me as your candidate for the trip to America, but I'd rather just let you know that this workshop was a driving force, pushing me to pursue what I believe in, highlighting the colossal importance of communication, new media and largely, the freedom to express oneself. The workshop happened many months ago, but the memory of it and the immense gratitude I had for this project stay with me till today. I find myself '#SocialSurfing' to do good in this constantly evolving field and world at large. It was in this very workshop that I finally understood the importance and brilliance of the quote that I read the day I chose communication as my subject of study - "You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." For truer words couldn't have been spoken when someone said "We don't have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it!" and I, personally intend to ace it!
On 10th October 2015, CSR in collaboration with Facebook conducted a two-hour workshop at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai titled ‘Access is Empowerment’.
It was a very interactive session and talked about the topical issue of growing intricacies between people and the digital space.
The seminar was segregated into several topic of discussion followed by a #SocialSurfing competition.
The first part of the workshop talked about the ease that the cyber platform has brought about. It was supplemented by examples of various e-commerce entrepreneurs who made it big.
The second part was a detailed discussion and demo on the privacy tools that are provided – primarily by Facebook.
The third session consisted of the efficacy and immense potential of social media to form an effective platform for discussion and debate or an arena to disagree or raise one’s voice against political/social/cultural issues.
Lastly, we were made to form groups and were asked to sit and brainstorm on a campaign relating to gender empowerment. This part was especially quite enjoyable. Incidentally, the group I was part of won from our college. Our campaign was titled ‘Equality for E-quality’.
All in all, the workshop was highly informative, not to mention relevant. The positive aspects of Internet surfing were very well articulated and presented. However, there are other facets of #SocialSurfing that I feel we, as individuals need to probe further.
On one hand #SocialSurfing is a goldmine for information resources- both political and apolitical and one of the primary medium for prompt communication and entertainment. However, there are other more daunting aspects to #SocialSurfing that are quite worrisome.
Firstly, on a social and personal level, I believe #SocialSurfing has instilled a spirit of disconnect with people. In this age of instant gratification, we increasingly see instances, where people find interaction with 'real' people monotonous and mundane while interfacing with hundreds of virtual voiceless faces, has somehow become more exciting.
Secondly, online privacy has been a widely discussed and controversial topic, and #SocialSurfing is no exception. It's an open secret that social network sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and the likes use virtual tools like cookie and plug- ins to track user movements online. E-commerce and other companies use this collated information about people for tailored and personalized marketing. The result is that people are losing their ability to browse the Internet anonymously. What is somewhat appalling is that a huge percentage of browsers are oblivious to this. To make matters worse, such sites are very subtly engineering an attitudinal shift among people and instilling an almost flippant apathy about personal privacy. This is evident by the way you can’t access most portals without sharing information with ‘friends’ or the browsers ‘public profile’. ‘Privacy’ itself has become a complicated concept to understand because of the way it is framed. For, e.g. Many companies convolute it by saying that the information shall be shared only with ‘related companies and affiliated corporation’ with no further information.
In the end, I would like to point out that communication over the years has gradually molded and adapted itself to changing times. However during the present fast paced technological age, it has taken a particularly immense leap forward – what with the advent of cyberspace. And although the internet has now become an integral (if not inseparable) part for the dissemination of information – perhaps there is a need to take a step back and retrospect if current civilization can handle this immense and sudden paradigm shift in communication. We need to probe or at least mindfully ask ourselves if these social media platforms are slowly lowering our privacy expectations for pecuniary and commercial reasons or are we merely witnessing the nascent stages of a new morphed world – the Cyber World.
Having had the chance to take part in a one-day workshop on '#SocialSurfing' organized to create awareness about a safe and gender sensitive on-line experience by the Centre for Social Research, one of the leading think-tanks in the domain of issues related to empowerment of women, I am glad to have this opportunity to write and share about my experience, both as an active female user of the social media platforms and as a student pursuing Masters in Public Policy, with a new found interest in internet governance and reforming the actions that take away the safety of women on the world wide web.
As part of the interactive caravan that the organization's initiative was, touring colleges across the country, I was delighted that they stopped by our institution and gave us a chance to speak about our plight as urban, modern, college going women. The presentation provided us with the growing incidence coupled with facts, figures and cases that leave women helpless in the wake of cyber stalking, sexual harassment, unauthorized usage and manipulation of personal images and videos. Whatever motivates individuals to take up such actions is reflective of the growing misogyny and patriarchy embedded in our society which is exactly what the workshop left us questioning: Will a virtual world ever be safe for women, when the real world is failing to do so?
Progress in our country would be incomplete without bringing about virtual security for women especially when the country is transitioning from classifieds to linkedin profiles, matrimonial advertisements to tinder bios and is reaching out to individuals and opportunities across by being on social networks such as facebook, twitter and instagram. Are the careers and choices of women to be restrained just as their personal freedom gets snatched away by escalating incidents of rapes and acid attacks in the country? Will humanity ever get to witness a time where the mind is without fear for the women of this country?
Freedom, thus, acts as a cornerstone that anchors this thought. Women over the centuries have witnessed a surge in attaining this freedom in certain waves, and with time, now a virtual struggle - for their privacy and security. The internet is the hive that our civilization can now be found in. We are in an advantageous position of reforming such granularity of relationships by engineering and allowing the great medium to evolve. The value of such freedom and equality rests on the quality of the medium that delivers it. Based on such an understanding, the campaign design competition saw our group at Xavier's design our own campaign, "Equality of e-quality" the logo of which is included here with this testimonial.