We started our Facebook page on 4th November, 2010- or rather, got serious about it. It has now been 5 years and we have learned a lot. #SocialSurfing is our attempt to share these learnings. Centre for social Research is a 32 year old organization working for women empowerment. Having immense experience on the ground, stepping into the virtual world observed a lot of skepticism. Many of my co-workers regarded it as a waste of time, some from the gender movement even saw it as taking the easy route (getting arrested at #JantarMantar is still considered the only honest form of protest in Delhi).
Thankfully, we can proudly say that it was a smart step taken by us back then. Technology from its inception has been viewed with suspicion and hesitance- be it the printing press, the telephone, or the internet itself. Something that most critics neglect is that technologies do not have moral, they have users. It is the user that can use technology to either decrease or exacerbate inequalities. Therefore, I was surprised that activists were uncertain about taking activism to the virtual world (some still are).
2 days ago Facebook announced that it had a billion active users. The users of other social media platforms like Whatsaap, Twitter, and Instagram are ever increasing. The growing number of participants in global dialogues is truly fascinating. #SocialSurfing emerged as a result of this fascination, envisioned as a free democratic platform, where all you need is a good idea and you can reach out to the globe, it is an activist’s dream come true.
The idea of these workshops is to engage with college students, and by enabling them with powerful social media tools, to collaborate in creating innovative campaigns for social change.
Another aim for #SocialSurfing is to address the negativity which comes with the virtual world becoming more real. Primitive and regressive ideas like patriarchy, racism, and other discriminating power structures are also being observed in the online world. So how do we change it? Well, the only way to beat #HateSpeech is by engaging in more positive, nuanced, and informed speech. ‘Counter speech’ is another aspect we focus on during the #SocialSurfing workshops. The goal is simply: to be sensitive towards others and to ensure we think before we comment, like, share, update our status.
Approximately 310 million Indians are online (as per Internet Live Stats) #SocialSurfing aims to engage with this user base, developing a culture of sensitive safe online surfing. In the first phase of this effort we will be engaging with 35 colleges across India. Each college will be encouraged to come up with their own campaigns, which the Media and Communication team of Centre for Social Research will help in creating and promoting. This will be followed by a series of online competitions around the topics of ‘Access is Empowerment’ and ‘Social Media for Social Change’.
#SocialSurfing is our dream project and we hope to realize it with the help of many partners.
*Internet Live Stats (2015) www.internetlivestats.com Accessed 23 May 2015
#SocialSurfing intends to channelize energy of the youth towards social change through social media. It also shared the importance and steps of remaining safe online and protecting your information along with defining the power that social media is giving you.