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Online Relationships – Real Or Virtual?

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By Atiya Hasan:

I wish the Internet would stop being portrayed as the villain. I wish those people who marry random people they meet online and then end up regretting their decisions rather publicly, would just go and stuff themselves. I wish those cheapish people who do drastic things online and end up making news would stop. Because I’m tired of listening to parents trashing  net friendships, believing everybody to be a fraud, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. And of course they could be exactly that, but then you have the same, if not more chances, of meeting frauds in your daily life too. I’m tired of reading articles about the apparent disdain that authors feel about online relationships, deeming them to be unfit of even being called relationships, since they’re virtual.

And I’m sick of being advised that  its better to go cycling or for a game of badminton, and meeting evidently “real” people  rather than spending hours online. Now I’m not saying it isn’t. But cycling or an outdoorsy game every single day can get just as boring as spending hours online. There should be some amount of balance between the two, the Real and the Virtual, because admit it , the internet is becoming a  quintessential part of our lives. You need it for everything and you can do much with it. From discovering a cure for Cancer, to meeting those rare amusing people. You should just know where to look. Name one assignment which you can complete without  the internet. Change my name to Champa (pun) if you don’t have at least one good online friend and/or have not flirted with people or been flirted with online.

The Internet is increasingly becoming a place where you can meet and make friends, good friends. Just like your local park or school or college. In fact you can meet people online who you could not have possibly bumped into at  the local park or in school or college. People from different countries, continents. People who have grown up in very different cultures, who are very different from you and yet so much alike.

And through online blogs, groups, forums, social networking sites , these online friends become increasingly real. You can read their thoughts, see their pictures, know their likes, dislikes and quirky tastes. Of course they could be lying about all of it, but who cares? As long as you’re not looking for romantic relationships, who cares if people are lying about their age, sex, location, interests, abs etc. It doesn’t matter. As long as they can keep you amused for some time.

Of course for real virtual friendships, it is essential to be truthful. And generally people are. Its just hard to keep up a lie. Its hard to keep up the pretence that you live in Santiago when you’d like to discuss how awesome the chandni chowk gol guppas were which you had yesterday. So not everybody online is a liar. What would be the point anyways, if like I said, all you were looking for is an harmless friendship. And with some experience you learn to gauge a person’s personality by his or her opening lines. The Internet provides you with much experience, leaves you wiser, broadens your horizons.

So kindly stop trashing online relationships. Believe me they’re as real as they get. You should just have them with the right sort of people. Like anybody who begins a conversation with a ‘Hey sexy’ or ‘Hello beautiful, asl please.’ And ends them with ‘lets meet up’ should immediately and effectively be ignored. Its usually safe to add people of the same sex, females in my case, except the rare lesbians. And I generally prefer to approach male persons rather than having them approach me, so more often that not I end up with sane individuals.

I have a couple of good online friends, who remain online friends largely due to the distance betweens us most of the time. Yes, the sort of relationships I share with them are different from the kind I have with the people that I bumped into at the park or in school or college, but then that’s what makes it fun. Yes, they cannot physically help me when I’m in need like some of my other friends can, but then there’s something called emotional support, and as fellow human beings I know you know how important that can get. And of course all that general advice, ridiculously funny anecdotes, interesting links, videos, pictures, movies, music etc.

All I can say is that my online relationships, the select few that I have, are as real as my real-life relationships. The sooner our respected elders understand that , the closer we’ll get to bridging that generation gap.

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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You must be to comment.
  1. Fathima

    ha, you totally wrote about saud and reza

  2. Atiya

    Why don’t you count yourself.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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