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And Now I “Like” You: The Facebook Fixation

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By Pooja Baburaj:

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” -William Arthur Ward

I have always loved to major in Psychology and inscribe in history the most intelligent thesis on reinforcement. A text-book definition sates that “Reinforcement is the process administering ANY object, event or stimuli that increases the rate of occurrence or encourages desired behavior from an individual.” A brilliant example of this would be the provision of constant bribes, mostly in the form of cheap candies and foot-massages that you offer your siblings in exchange for their silence on your late-night escapades. A reinforcer is an object, event or stimuli that increases the rate of occurrence or encourages desired behaviour from an individual. For example, the Facebook ‘like’ button which allows you to encourage something as fantastically absurd as the duck-face phenomenon to that of a noble cause like the breast-cancer awareness campaigns.

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This happened once upon a time, a few Facebook years ago – I fretfully sauntered my scrawny self through the alien hallways, fortified with an extra-large Disney backpack and a toning cherry water-bottle that dangled loosely from my skeletal neck. I stole a small, nervous glance through my shoulder to get that final boost of buoyancy from my parents, an assuring signal of ‘thumbs-up’. But then the world keeps spinning around, the sun goes down and humans discover yet another product of their intellect and innovativeness. Addressing the passivity of the expression of emotions and their near non-existence in the industrial era, man has brought his greatest discovery after the sewage system – the divine ‘Like’ button on Facebook.The concept of ‘liking’ things is very old, likely older than the words we use to describe it…” said Facebook Engineer Andrew Bosworth, who was a part of the team that created the ‘like’ button.

It is indeed astounding to note that a ‘like’ is not and most often never determined solely on the basis of the rationality and sagacity of the content published. There is an added element or aspect in major play during the decision-making process – the human element. I presume that the part of the human psyche that Facebook exploits is our sociability and insecurity. The way individuals perceive one another can have a dialectic impact on their lives. Love, hate and admiration are just some sentiments that most of us seek out in one form or another. You’ll find several girls and guys who post and repost beautified pictures or glorious philosophies craving for a couple of likes. It is almost akin to a giant advertisement proclaiming the purpose of your apparently enviable existence. The trouble comes in when attempts are made to translate the virtual popularity into the real world — popular boo-boos include equating virtual popularity to realistic situations. Dear people, if it worked that way then we’d be shopping with Farmville cash now.

Facebook depression’ has been raised has one of the potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors’ group warns, referring to a condition that affects teens who obsess over the online site. “The unique aspect of Facebook ‘likes’ can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem”, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area paediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Paediatrics social media guidelines. With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up. “It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down”, O’Keeffe said, “because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.”

Using social media networks for connecting with old friends, for sending urgent messages to an absent colleague, to see your children graduate in another country — in such cases, Facebook is extremely helpful, but when we overlook the basic rationale of joining Facebook and presuppose that it’s a popularity contest platform, everything starts flying out the window.

Now that’s everything’s been said and done- you are going to ‘like’ my article, aren’t you? Huh? Huh?

Photo Credit: afagen via Compfight cc

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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