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The 5 People You Meet On Social Media As An Indian Woman

I posted about these spurious requests on my social media. I was surprised by the number of women who came forward sharing experiences similar to mine.

Social Media is a strange animal- a little scary, a little fascinating, but immensely addictive. It wields great power, the power to connect people, influence, communicate, and transform. And with great power comes great responsibility.

I picked up online blogging over the past year and have expanded my friends list exponentially both on Facebook, and Instagram. In this process, I have discovered many amazing people and platforms including Women’s Web. I have also formed friendships that are built on mutual respect and admiration for each other’s craft. By networking, I believe that the audience for my writing grows.

As a safety measure, I accept friend requests provided they are from the writing community, they follow my works, or we have a common friends circle. I believe this criterion helps to identify legitimate requests. However, occasionally, I’ve had to deal with an error in judgment.

Here are the five people I have met online, that have got my antenna beeping red.

The ‘Charm’er

Picture this: I’ve just accepted a friend request assuming it is from someone who enjoys writing. Seconds later, my messenger sounds an alert. This stranger pings me with these opening lines: ‘You look cute. You look charming. Tell me about yourself.’ 

As Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy says, ‘Screw beautiful! if you want to appease me, compliment my brain!’

You don’t know me at all. It’s not OK to start a conversation with personal remarks. It creeps me out. On sensing my discomfort, some of these people even add a disclaimer, ‘I am safe, trust me.’

‘Walk into my web. I am safe,’ said no spider ever.

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The Professional

What’s with this flurry of friend requests from men flying planes or performing heart surgery? I’m dealing with a deluge of requests from foreign Doctors, Pilots, and officers from the navy. Their profiles are filled with pictures of them playing with dogs and little children (Awww) and they emphasize their single status.

If they are interested in matchmaking, they are barking up the wrong tree. I am happily committed, and I intend to stay that way. But do you know who could be interested? Sima Aunty from Netflix since she is probably recruiting for season three of her show.

If you still want to befriend me, you can, but please note that my subjects of interest include inflation, mortgage rates, economic policy, aches and ailments, the modern education system, classical literature, and popular culture. (which may or may not involve discussions on how the Game of Thrones book collection was far better than the series.)

The Scamster

Gone are the days when one would get an Orkut request asking for ‘fraanship.’ Now the requests are as sophisticated as they can get.

An acquaintance shared with me that there have been incidents where gullible women fall prey to scamsters who befriend them. They later come up with phony requests that involve the transfer of large sums of money. Many a time, the scamsters get away with it because the victims are too embarrassed to file a complaint.

Perhaps I need to include in my bio description: “I cannot be depended on in case you expect me to bail you out when the mafia is chasing you, or you need an advance to pay the legal fees for the inheritance your grandma left you.”

And locked profiles? A big NO.

The Debater

What’s with the people who add you and then consider it OK to tag you in a post about whatever ideology they are obsessed with? At least they should ask if it’s OK to tag; because it isn’t.

I have my principles. If there is something I believe in, I will stand up for it, but not necessarily by being a keyboard warrior. To each his or her own.

Social media is my happy place, my creative space for self-expression. If you do want my opinion on whether fries go better with Ketchup or Mayo I can offer several valuable insights (Ketchup, obviously). But if you want me to take your side in whatever socio-political-religious debate you are having, I will throw in the towel.

The Troll

Probably the most vicious of the lot. Trolls don’t need to be on your friend’s list. They are everywhere. They will read your work and drop the most hurtful comments, all the while hiding behind their fake profile pictures. I know of fellow writers who have stopped blogging because of the trauma they endured due to the uncalled-for responses their articles garnered.

I have had a personal experience too. I had penned down a review appreciating the Malayalam movie, ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’. Within seconds of publishing the review, a troll posted the most vicious personal comments. He wished the worst for my family and said I would suffer for my Karma of propagating feminism and man-hating.

The central message in my review had been that ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’ is a movie that every man should watch as it would make them appreciate their mother/wife better. The last I checked, being a feminist is no crime. It’s the need of the hour!

That day I learned a lesson. To survive trolls on the internet, one must develop a thick skin.

The responses from women

I posted about these spurious requests on my social media. I was surprised by the number of women who came forward sharing experiences similar to mine. Some ranged from amusing while other experiences were downright horrific.

Many women claimed to have had to change their accounts, from public to private because of this influx of requests from fake profiles. No one has the time or capacity to weed out such an extensive list or deal with the aftermath of accepting such requests.

Strangely, I didn’t hear anything from my male friends. There have been instances of men being scammed too, but my friends assure me that they don’t have to deal with the dangers of catfishing or being spammed with fake requests daily.

I wonder what it must be like to live in an online world, fear-free.

The suggestions came in fast and furious. Do background checks. Check for mutual friends. Change your profile picture into something strange. But why should I live in a cloak of anonymity? If anything, I am not the one who should be ashamed. It’s the ones who wear masks that need to be worried.

It can be argued that the easiest way out is to decline every friend request you don’t recognize. But ultimately, many of us employ social media to grow our brands or expand our businesses. Sitting in a walled room doesn’t give you visibility. Ultimately, it is up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff and harness the power of social media for growth and to usher in change.

Here’s to a safer online world for women!

Author’s disclaimer: I am no networking expert or cyber safety Guru. I’m just a netizen, trying to make sense of social media while building a safe, happy creative space for myself.

Image source: a still from the film Piku

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

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