Virtual friendship: what’s the reality in it for women

CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER

6th August, 2017 my WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were flooded with Happy friendship images. I was not well aware about friendship day as I was for Raksha Bandhan because back in our school days, we loved to wait for  “Rakhi” which used to come in different shapes made of colourful  sponge  topped with tiny little shining stars. Irrespective of gender, we used to tie Rakhi on each other’s hands and gift our own crafts (the “home made Rakhi”) to our elders, teachers and our best-friends. In my family, this was an occasion to pamper our grandfather with our own Rakhi who was generous enough to give us the sisters a treat in a nearby Chinese restaurant for “rakhi”. My family was not alone in celebrating Rakhi in such a manner. There were many families irrespective of religion who would extend Rakhi greetings and children would come over to each other’s places to show their Rakhi that they got from their siblings, friends or even grandparents. That was our ‘friendship day’ too as we the Bengalis carefully nurtured the custom of strengthening social bond with tying of Rakhi to our friends irrespective of their religion, cast or place of birth, instilled by none other than Rabindra Nath Tagore. We never saw texts wishing of “rakhi” or “Freindship day”. The greetings cards made especially for this were special items in gift shops which some of us bought for presenting a ‘memorable gift’ to their acquaintances. That was some thing REAL in real world.
There were spats of incidences this Friendship day and Raksha Bandhan day which made me think where we are heading to:
People wish happy friendship day to strangers whom they have never met or heard their voices in their lives. Women especially are flooded with such messages accompanied with images from ‘friends’ all over the world. An expert researcher may definitely find a nexus between sending friendship messages and subsequent online harassment to these ‘friends’. Such messages actually initiate a strange relationship and may even make women recipients believe that the senders have genuine interest in extending friendship. This internet culture is especially noticeable in young women and also first time users of social media including messaging apps in the smart phones. The virtual friendship or even any relationship can be so addictive that individuals may even forget their real life family or friends with whom one has actually grown up. Unfortunately there is no law for internet-deaddiction or rather virtual relationship deaddiction. Laws are made to control crime or prevent escalation of crimes. But consider when individuals forget their liabilities and duties to their real life family members or friends for their virtual relationships: a unique condition may arise in such cases where the neglected member may have to plead to the courts for directing the concerned person to ‘pay attention’ failing which, he/she may have to ‘pay’ for his/her irresponsible nature. Such unique conditions may include not only negligence of his /her moral responsibilities towards own families including caring for older or younger generations or dependants, but also may include exposing own family members or real life friends to extreme danger including various types online offences whereby the latter’s privacy may be infringed due to callousness of the earlier.
August is the beginning of  festive season in India, followed by major festive months including September and October. Let us share the happiness and positiveness among our family and friends first and then to our virtual friends some of whom may not even be “real”. We need to understand that once the family unit provides a strong mental support to any individual including children, no negative force may destroy the inner peace and yes, the reputation of the said person. Sharing happiness and sorrows alike may also make it easier for any one especially women and girls  to combat online harassment especially those kinds which directly affects our reputation.
Let us be independent from fear of virtual reputation damage which may be caused due to unknown virtual friends.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2017), “ Virtual friendship: what’s the reality in it for women”10th August, 2017, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com

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