Dear Social Media: I Long For Validation Through Life, Not Electronic Likes Or Comments

Dear social media,

I am not fascinated by what you have to offer. I do not wish to be a part of this culture as I value people more than hashtags. I am not against social media, but I don’t find it useful either. Not because my self-esteem is too low to participate, but I wish to be a part of a community that is connected with real stories, full of feelings and emotions, bound with mutual care and affection, over Instagram stories. I’d wish to be a part of real-life stories instead of being a part of someone’s snap chat stories.

I wish to sit with people and see their lives through a photo album, that has no filters. I wish to make memories with people and celebrate people that have been an integral part of my life, instead of celebrating a ‘friendversary’ on Facebook. How about stealing the moment, playing the videos of memories in your head and basking in nostalgia? How about closing your eyes and sending silent gratitude to the person for their time and presence in your life?

I just do not want to remember people on a few special occasions and make long posts of appreciation or send wishes on Facebook; instead, I want to make days memorable and special, for the ones whose existence is my life is irreplaceable. I wish to know how people feel in my presence, over my social media presence. I wish to see human reactions over emoji reactions. I wish to explore all shades of human nature and humankind. I wish to build permanent, deep, and meaningful bonds, instead of instantly gratifying bonds, that come with trifling texts of “Hi”, “what’s up”, “you look good, can we talk”. When I get such texts, I am often left with the thought – what are people looking for in this illusionary world distant from reality? I long for validation through life and not electronic likes or comments. I want people to recognise me not for my feed, but for my deed.

I wish to discuss the deepest cracks, the inevitable mistakes, the failures that are often unspoken, unshared. Have you ever seen a status saying “yes, I made a mistake but I learned and now I am willing to change”, “I failed at my 100th attempt, I am still trying”, ” I feel dejected, and I am shattered”?

Dear social media, in your world, we are all, often, left detached, instead of feeling attached. The most invaluable gift you can gift someone is warmth. If we extend warmth and acknowledge the human need for meaningful attachments, a person with a million friends on an online platform would not end up feeling lonely.

I wish to like and share with the world the empowering and inspiring side of each person I meet in my journey. I want to live in the present, experience nature, food, human ingenious, human bonding and appreciate all the beauty as it comes, without doing each task for the sake of content (though it is a good way to make money these days). I don’t want to be known by my social media popularity; I want to be known for my contribution to this world. I do not wish to express my concerns online, thus absolve myself from the responsibility to act; instead, I would want to privately participate and make a consistent contribution to a social cause aligned to my values.

Dear social media, you are encouraging people to form and cherish artificial bonds over actual friendships. The term ‘friend’ as used on social media lacks the intimacy identified with conventional friendships, where people actually know each other, want to talk to each other, have an intimate bond and frequently interact face to face. In the olden days, people lived a longer and much healthier life because they knew the significance of having healthy human relationships and interactions. You have limited people to blogs, products/services or a brand.

If you are reading this, I want you to do a small task. Withdraw yourself from all the social media platforms and see how many people actually want to sit and make time to talk to you. Cherish the handful few. In this world of casual chatting and texting, I wish to experience the richness of human bonds and the delight of having an unfeigned conversation.

Show your trust in people, show them their positive and bright side, tell them they are worthy and important for you, tell them you care, be open and honest, have no regrets and you will experience the sacred feeling of being born as a human. Ask a dying person what they want the most, and the only answer you will get is to regain human touch by being true to their reality. Aren’t we too involved in creating a double consciousness? Why is it that we have to wear different masks with different people? Why are we so engrossed in creating a virtual reality when we have the potential to create a beautiful reality for ourselves and others.

From,

A person who has a zest for living as a human.

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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.

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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.

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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