“I have never understood the psyche behind it, of filling spaces with negativity and hatred,” Sangeetha says, in response to the abuse on WCC and Parvathy’s pages.

On abuse cuss words and more Meet Sangeetha WCCs social media manager
news Social Media Sunday, October 14, 2018 - 20:31

She had not meant to take the microphone and speak. Sangeetha Janachandran stood in a corner of the stage when members of the Women in Cinema Collective spoke. She heard her dear ones, including her soul sister, actor Parvathy, get emotional as they shared the trauma of being women in the industry who chose to rebel. In the end, she walked to Parvathy and Padmapriya and whispered something. “So you tell it,” Padmapriya told her.

Sangeetha took the mic, her voice quivering. “I manage WCC’s social media page,” she says, stressing on WCC. That line didn’t really need an explanation.

Anyone who has opened the page knows the kind of comments that are posted under every post and picture each day. And this is the woman who goes through each and every one of them.

“At least 100 times every day, I am verbally abused. Because that’s the kind of abuse that we get on our page. Placing a hand on Parvathy’s shoulder, she says, “This is my sister. What she went through… I have seen it,” her eyes became teary, and the others on stage too became emotional.

She left, leaving the otherwise aggressive journalists silent for a moment. No one dared call it a drama. For a moment, they knew – they all knew – the truth of her short speech and what it meant. What it did to her and the ones the abuses were directed at.

Everyone wanted a word with the quiet petite Sangeetha all of a sudden. Sadly, no one knew if an interview was for finding out the truth anymore, or for simply hunting for a powerful headline like some of those angry questions at the Ernakulam press club on Saturday had seemed to be.

A day earlier, Parvathy had asked Sangeetha if she was sure she wanted to come for the press conference. Sangeetha was sure she did. She was going to be there for her. The sisters are equally concerned about each other.

Parvathy and Sangeetha, soul sisters

“After a gap, when we see each other, we don’t ask ‘how are you’. We ask, how is your heart,” Sangeetha tells TNM, hours after the stressful press conference on Saturday.

For it is their hearts that go through the worst. People may tell you to ignore it, and ask you why you are giving it so much importance. To those people, Sangeetha tells to take the virtual space into a physical space and imagine all that filth being thrown at you. “Would you leave it unattended?” she asked.

This is exactly what many social media users do not seem to comprehend -- that this space could be as (or even more) disruptive as the real space that we breathe and live in. This could make or break a person, says Sangeetha, who manages the pages of a number of people including Parvathy’s, and brands too.

When it becomes too much, she sends messages to abusers from her personal profile, tells them she is Parvathy’s sister and asks them what gives them the right to write this to her, to any human being. They don’t expect that. Some apologise, they back off. They cannot believe there is a person who actually sits and reads all these messages that they type on their keyboard thoughtlessly and with a false sense of doing something funny.

The abuse had spiralled since the Kasaba incident, when Parvathy made a comment on the Mammootty-starrer at a press conference. Sangeetha was staying with her at the time, and saw the kind of comments and messages Parvathy got each day, and the effect it had on her. She was torn herself.

“I am a normal human being, a regular communication professional. I too have faced the rare online abuse like everyone else. But I was alarmed at the intensity with which it happened on Parvathy’s page. Both as a sister and as a woman, I wanted to help.”

In February, Sangeetha took over the page that Parvathy had handled till then. When Parvathy asked, she also took over the WCC page. She was adding two more pages to the number of pages of brands and people she had managed as a professional. She didn’t know it was going to break her heart so much, and so often.

She had to be alert every hour of the day. Her phone was abuzz with notifications every minute. One of the first discoveries she made was that quite a lot of the repetitive abusers didn’t have faces. They were fake profiles. Among many of their abusive methods, one was posting the same (abusive) comment under all posts of a page. “I have never understood the psyche behind it, of filling spaces with negativity and hatred,” she says.

She began by banning words, and then combinations of words and hashtags. But some clever fellow would find a way to tweak their way through the ban with a change of spelling. About 40-45 words are now in the banned list.

Sangeetha would religiously sit and remove all of it. “Because it would be leaving an otherwise beautiful post meaningless if you allow a mess under it.”

All this work is also not for a paycheck. Eighty percent of it she does for free --  just for the passion of it, for the cause.

Through this 24-hour ‘job’ however, Sangeetha has also managed to study, do a thesis on social media, focusing on Kerala. All that’s happening on Kerala’s social media would go into her thesis. “Perhaps Malayalis are a little more (angry) when it comes to social media. We don’t even leave international celebrities alone.” What she doesn’t add is we go there and fill it with cuss words the moment we don’t like something they said.

Her thesis would hopefully be done by November. Before all this, she had been a PR professional in Bengaluru, but moved to Dubai after marriage.

Sometimes, Sangeetha says, all she needs – hopes for – is for 24 hours when she doesn’t know what is happening in the world.

Watch the video of her short speech at the press conference here: 

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