People have different experiences on social media platforms. Some are trolled for their opinions, others receive thousands of likes for their photos, while many others continue using it just to see what their friends are up to. My experiences have been a mix of all of these, barring the last I must confess! What has been a common thread to all my experiences, and of those like me, is how my particular identity or ideology have shaped these experiences.
I post a lot of content which is reflective of my politics, but thankfully I have not been trolled on my personal accounts yet. As a Muslim woman who has an opinion online, I take a very keen interest in noticing which of my posts receive replies and from whom. I remember an incident where a college acquaintance of mine posted about how disappointed she was in me, to see me ‘play the victim card.’ I had posted a link to my rejoinder to Apoorvanand’s article ‘Muslims Must Refuse To Be Killed’. If anything, it was indicative of me exercising my agency, saying that mere words wouldn’t suffice, that more needs to be done. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see some of my batch mates respond to her on my behalf, even without me asking them to.
I am a member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and have been posting about the movement’s struggle to reform family laws in India for Muslim women. While this struggle is over ten years old, with the recent media attention, it is amazing for me to see how so-called ‘liberals’ have been using social media to question the intentions of those in the fight. Even within the community, when a woman expresses herself and that expression is not in line with the popular narrative, social media is an easy tool for many to pass judgment and try to malign the years of struggle of so many.
Ignoring hate online cannot be an option. It will only embolden those who perpetrate it further and it does not take very long for it to spill into offline spaces. As a woman, and one who belongs to the Muslim community, my only privilege has been my education. I think it is important that I question the gendered nature of online conversations, especially within the ‘liberal’ circles where women’s rights are being categorised as ‘this is more important than the other’.
If you believe in something, stand by it, even if you are standing alone. Online or offline, it does not matter.