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The rise of ‘Only Women’ social networks has the potential to transform how women work with and support each other.
I studied in an all-girls school for a good part of my early formal education. Like any school kid of the 80s and 90s era in India, I had my share of learning, studies, sports, co-curricular activities, mischief, memorable moments, childhood and school experiences, life lessons and fun in equal measure – just that it did not involve ‘the boys‘, and that did not really make a difference. Honestly, I did not know it any other way!
Consequently, my ‘good/best friends’ were mostly girls (and some of them are my best friends even to this date. Yes! Our friendship dates to another era). Of course, I did interact with boys and men in the family and friends network, but then there is an implicit line drawn somewhere (like an invisible Lakshman Rekha), and so those experiences are usually somewhat pleasant and civil.
When I passed out of school, I enrolled into a co-education school. That started my ‘real journey’ with the multifaceted opposite sex. Looking back, my life has never really been the same again. Ah! I miss those ‘girlie school days’, and I also realized the importance and power of the ‘bonds of sisterhood‘ much much later.
See, here’s the thing: When girls and boys connect, communicate, interact and (try to) co-exist, it is a whole new world. Things which were ignored suddenly come to the limelight, things which were irrelevant suddenly become relevant, things which you were never conscious about suddenly become the center of your universe, things which never needed to be ‘filtered’ need to be ‘filtered’, things which were never really important become critical to your existence, and things which never defined you become your defining moments.
Anyways, coming back to my own life; the next few years revolved around education, career, family, marriage and motherhood. And like most average people, I’ve had my share of good, bad and ugly in all of this. And as with most women who go through all these life experiences, I let-go of many of my girlfriends along the way. It was not intentional, purely incidental, circumstantial. Career, work life balance, travel, people residing in all parts of the world, lack of time, conflicting interests, changing priorities, etc., etc., etc. So before I knew it I found myself in my thirties and wondering who my friends really are!
Thanks to technology and the social media revolution, I was able to re-connect with many of my girlfriends from the past. The good thing is that you have a foundation and base to build on, and you can take off from where you left. But the not-so-good thing is that you have all changed, and there may be a fundamental difference in your thoughts, perspectives and outlook to life.
The other not-so-good thing is that you are almost always worried if she will judge you, and how much you can trust her. Anyways, girls/women are (in)famous for keeping secrets, right?
Sometime in 2010, on my journey to motherhood, I also started my journey as a writer and blogger – simply because I needed a canvas to express myself. A canvas for my words – words which stemmed from dreams, thoughts, observations, analysis, learnings, conversations, view-points, outlook, views, emotions, perspectives, achievements, mistakes, failures, lessons learned, comprehensions, experiences and conclusions.
Along the way, I realized that I enjoyed blogging as it was a creative outlet for my thoughts, emotions and energies, and continued to blog more. As any blogger does, I stressed and fretted about readership, reach, pageviews, etc. and as a solution, I embraced Twitter and Facebook to promote my blogs. Nothing really significant, but just figuring out the tricks of the trade. And of course the usual lingering around (which by the way takes a whole lot of precious time!)
A “hello” here, “You look fabulous” there. And of course, those moments which social media leaves you with. Sometimes, moments of wonder at how much people have changed. Sometimes, moments of awe at how far others have come. Sometimes, moments of admiration at how successful and powerful some of my buddies are. Sometimes, moments of joy to see and share a slice of someone else’s life. Sometimes, moments of jealousy at how happy some people appear to be! And sometimes, just to flow through the passage of time and make the moment count (or not!?). I go through the whole range of human emotions over a span of few minutes.
The unanticipated benefit of all my Twitter / Facebook activity was that it connected me to several like-minded, intelligent, interesting and diverse woman who were slowly and surely creating an impact and making a difference in their sphere of influence.
Sometime in 2013, I got invited to be part of some Facebook groups/communities. I accepted the invitation. Honestly, I did not know what to expect. It took me a while to understand the protocols of interaction, the reach, the impact and the power of these communities. I don’t know why and how, but what followed were invitations to some elite and exclusive ‘women only’ social communities. Many of these are ‘secret / closed groups’ where the membership is ‘by invitation only’.
They typically include women who have common interests/beliefs or experiences (for e.g., motherhood in general, working mothers, women in business, mompreneurs, etc.). And that opened a whole new world for me, changed my perspective of life and has been a transformational life experience.
Here’s what I learned. A woman speaking in public is one thing, and a woman speaking behind closed doors is something else. You have to experience it to know what I mean.
To be honest, when I first joined some of these communities, I was pleasantly shocked! Shocked to see the honesty with which women spoke up, shocked at how freely women shared deeply private and personal stories of strength, courage, conviction and trials, shocked to see the support women extended to each other in times of lows/crisis, shocked at the positivity and energy amidst the community, shocked at the way the owners nurtured / propelled the group towards specific causes, shocked at the larger good many of these groups were doing / further aimed to do, shocked at how unknown names and faces stood up for each other to assist and guide women through all that life threw at them.
Being a member of these communities has been an invaluable learning experience for me. Over time, I realized that I enjoyed the interactions, the learning, the friendships and bonds that were fostered and also the intellectual stimulation that these communities provided.
See here’s the next thing. There is that special something about an ‘all-girls network’. If you’re/you’ve ever been part of one, you’ll know what I mean. Suffice to say, today I swear by the ‘bonds of womanhood’. I know that the ‘old boys clubs/bad boys gangs/dirty old men groups’ have been around from time immemorial. But as of today, I’d bet that the ‘Only Women’ social networks are here to stay. This is where the power lies. This is where ideas are exchanged. This is where inspiration is drawn from . This is where the thoughts are influenced. This is where it all comes together!
I have nothing personal against boys and men really; after all I am what I am partly because of all the men in my life. Just that with time, I’ve come to acknowledge, appreciate and accept that men and women are wired differently. So,
And because there will almost always be some things which are exclusive to women, therein lies the need for ‘Only Women’ social networks. And these social networks are important because they provide a forum for women to:
It warms my heart to see women sharing, collaborating, nurturing, supporting, advising, mentoring and just being there for each other through the journey of life.
In all that I’ve seen as a part of my own life, I strongly believe that for any one person to blossom, flower and flourish (man/woman), there has to be (somewhere in the generational family tree) at least ONE resilient woman who nurtured, supported, guided and believed in him/her. (Of course a lot more things play their part too – divine grace, luck, hard work, passion, focus, ecosystem support, timing,. but that one woman would have made all the difference)
And for any woman to be that ‘resilient woman’, she needs support. Not every time, every day. But during that one vulnerable moment which can break / make her. And it is in that one vulnerable moment that the ‘Only Women’ social networks help a woman cross the chasm. And for only that one reason, I conclude by saying that these ‘Only Women’ Social Networks are powerful networks. These networks are definitely a harbinger of positive change and have the potential for global transformation. They are real, and here to stay!
That’s what I had to say. Would love to hear your views. Leave a comment to let me know.
Originally published here.
Pic credit: SonofGroucho (Used under a CC license)
Working Mom • Marketologist - Digital Artisan - Brand Storyteller • Ideapreneur • Writer - Blogger - Columnist • IIMB Alumni • Mentor • Horizon
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