Vikram Sheoran lives in Dwarka Mod and has been, for the past five years, happily married (twice!) to the same woman. Armed with a Masters in Computer Application and his fun personality, he boards the Delhi Metro to reach office like a regular office going commuter. No one would guess that his destination are four other people with whom he shares a common passion – social media and social change. No one would guess that he and his partners have reached out to 38 colleges within one year across India to educate youngsters on online safety and making the most of what social media has to offer. They are now gearing up to reach 70 colleges for the same. The magic of working with media is that work is always fun. Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram are always active and everyone is on top of it. Vikram reaches office and finds a rather dehydrated and flushed Arnika Singh who travels from Janakpuri to the Vasant Kunj office. Arnika heaves a sigh of relief as she parks herself in front of the air conditioner. After a quick ‘Hey, whatsup!’ Vikram and Arnika discuss Lindt chocolates, Litchis, Delhi heat and reminisce their last New York trip together. Arnika almost falls off laughing when she takes extra care to remind Vikram of his Times Square Spider Man stint. The focus shifts off him and Arnika greets Anubhuti with her diet chart that she i planning to go on from today. They discuss if Ranjani would come to office. Ranjani is mother to an active baby boy and feels very angry when people fail to understand that you don’t lose weight by just running after a toddler- you need to discipline yourself with a diet. Surya, Ranjani’s son, ensures that mommy goes to office twice a week and is at home with him the rest of the time. As Anubhuti, Vikram and Ranjani exchange notes on woes of married life, Arnika twirls around with her arms in the air and with a big smile she says, “I am single! Everything comes with a price.” The room is suddenly filled with active energy as the boss Amitabh Kumar enters. As he makes way to the most colorful corner of the office, he greets everyone with a ‘Hello’. Amitabh puts his bag down and faces the collage of motivational lines, posters, photos of his girlfriend, family and his team, more framed memoirs, witty lines and the paraphernalia of laptop, speakers, water bottle. He turns to the team with Magic Spring in his hands, “So Arnika, weren’t you supposed to get this 15 days ago?” An amused and exasperated Arnika replies, “I hunted India Gate for it! I was so busy as well!” Amitabh gives a laugh, “Ya you were busy and I was on playstation!” In the midst of titter and loud laughs, Amitabh climbs on to a chair with the Magic Spring in his hands. Vikram quickly fishes out his mobile and starts shooting a video. “Guys what do you think will happen if I drop the Spring?” This begins the excited discussion on the Social Media workshop activity.
After every workshop, Amitabh paces the room and tells Arnika the five things that need to be changed for the next workshop and five things that could be done differently the next time. Amitabh is a hands-on workshop trainer who has performer genes in him, thanks to his Jawaharlal Nehru University professor parents. Today, he begins his Social media workshop by saying, “By the end of this one hour workshop, Social Media as we know it would have changed a lot already. Every 20 seconds, Facebook has 97,660 updates, Youtube has 5000 views and Pinterest has 4820 new pins.” Bruce Lee’s ‘Be water my friend” as remixed by Melodysheep sets the tone of the workshop which is packed with activities that ensure people don’t fall off to sleep or make a trip to the daydreaming land. The spirit of the workshop is immersed in the awe of the power of social media. The participants are visibly animated and much more excited towards the end of the workshop as something changes in the way they saw and processed Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. As Arnika, Vikram and Amitabh take stage during the workshop; they take the participants through demonstrations on how to optimize individual social media features like Facebook posts, tagging, updating posts on the group and videos for YouTube, keeping the Twitter handle live and going. The team empathizes with the participants on the prevalence of hate speech and online abuse, and brainstorms on ideas of how to enhance counter speech to tackle online attacks which can get extremely personal and violent. Since the motto of Centre for Social Research as an organization is gender sensitization and equality; the team also explains the importance of making the web space safer for women where they not only feel comfortable to interact but also encouraged to build on it and thus emboldened by healthy interactions.
The workshop ends with a round of applause and on a high note of participant excitement. For the #SocialSurfing team, this is yet another day at work as they settle down at the workstations with backs towards each other, voices flung across the room and chairs turning 360 degrees in animated discussions while sipping from tall glasses of Nimbu Pani served diligently by Polycarp every evening.
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