In the series of Women's Day posts, here is a life-changing and eye-opening real life story.
Once someone asked me a Mathematics doubt via text messages(It was when I was preparing for JEE). It was hard to solve over text messages, and after 2-3 messages I said we can connect on Skype (this was in 2018, Zoom wasn't mainstream), so I can at least see screen and explain.
She didn't reply for 4-5 days. When I didn't send anything further, finally after a week she contacted me again, and finally over a screen share I helped her with the issue.
Many months later, once she pinged again, about some career decision (between 2 colleges which to choose), and after multiple slow replies from me, taking hours, she finally asked for my number & we had a 10 min call, and I shared my advice.
The next day she pinged me WhatsApp, said something that shook me. She said she asked for help on text message rather than any other platform because this is relatively a bit safer than any other medium for harassment, and she was very apprehensive to either come on a call or anything as she has earlier asked for technical help to some seniors in the domain, and almost always those have led to people following her on all social networks and starting to send memes and jokes which start getting more provocative slowly over time.
And while there are often jokes about how guys turn any social media platform into Tinder and girls do post about how all social media experiences are bad for them, and even though I was aware about it, it never occurred to me how much of an impact something like this has.
Here was a person, having doubts in solving some calculus problems, and she was evaluating her choice on where and whom to talk to, simply to not get stalked and get unwanted social advances in return.
(Her experiences, even with some well known 'seniors' from her coaching, who are well known to guide others, and relatively quite 'nice' in their public appearance, had not been too great).
She said, the only reason she felt confident talking to me over Skype or calls was because I had not messaged her further or had not followed her on Insta/FB etc. Think about it for once, how sad that is.
This is a completely uneven playing field, because this is a problem our gender never ever faces.
It hits quite like a ton of bricks when someone "thanks" you profusely simply for not being a dick. For not harassing them. For just being decent.
I really wish navigating social media were not such a minefield for those of the other gender.
P.S. I have never ever spoken about this except to maybe 2-3 friends of mine, when discussing the issue of social media toxicity has come up over drinks at a gathering. And I did contact the person mentioned to ask if I may share this story, and she not only agreed but said it will be a good idea.
She mentioned she has become much more adept at handling these issues, and she is now pursuing her undergraduate research study (B.Sc in Economics) from IISER Bhopal, but she did say that even today, the problem by and large exists, and she still encounters similar things pretty regularly.