Restricted access

Four reasons why banning social media on campus is a bad idea

Aligarh Muslim University is latest institution to limit internet use.

The students and staff of Aligarh Muslim University were left befuddled and angry on Sunday when they could not log onto Facebook. Every time someone tried to access the site during working hours on the university internet system, the screen went blank. When asked, the university authorities admitted to blocking social media access on campus. They did so, they said, because it “distracted” students.

“The ban is in the interest of the university,” Rahat Abrar, the university’s public relations officer told The Times of India. “It will protect the interests of students and teachers. There were complaints that students were getting distracted by it.”

This is not the first time an embargo has been placed on social media on campus. Across the country, universities are freely imposing such bans, citing “distraction” and “congested networks”.

But it is debatable whether these injunctions are effective. It is also questionable if the idea does any good. To most people, the proscriptions are misplaced. They smack of some education official's ignorance of the way the internet works and of the benefits brought by social media.

1. Access continues

Most students remain unperturbed by the bans since they have figured how to bypass the blocks and access their favourite websites. IIT Delhi, for instance, banned internet access from 1 am to 6 am, but its students can be still found online late at night.

“We are allowed to use our own dongles and mobile internet,” said Abhishek Gupta, an IIT Delhi alumnus. "Those who want campus internet go to research labs, etc. and use it anyway."

Banaras Hindu University students reportedly use virtual private networks or anonymous browsers, such as Tor, to access the websites blocked by the authorities.

2. Barrier to information and interaction

Social media helps build connections and improve interaction with users around the world. Not being able to tap into this has incensed the faculty at the Aligarh Muslim University.

“This is unfortunate,” Aftab Alam, secretary of the AMU teachers’ association told The Times of India. “Facebook is not just about entertainment, it is also information. It serves as alternative media, as another source of information. The ban has affected our right to know and share.”

Students point out that the bans obstruct communication among classmates and project teams collaborating through Facebook groups and pages. “The most popular mode of interacting with classmates and sharing information about exam material and seminars is Facebook,” said Veda Nadendla, a student at the Madras School of Social Work.

3. Hinders promotion of campus events

Students use social media heavily these days to promote campus events, such as cultural festivals and seminars. The process costs nothing and is very effective. Banning social media or the internet makes publicising programmes difficult, say students from the University of Delhi.

“Our political science festival Chanakaya depends on the participation of students from other colleges" said Meghana Rathore, a student of political science at Delhi University’s Shaheed Bhagat Singh College. "The only way to invite them is through social media. We keep updating information on Facebook and Twitter. A ban on social media will cause a big drop in footfalls."

4. Only a cosmetic measure

Aligarh Muslim University students say the social media ban will not increase anyone’s efficiency. “The teachers who want to waste time online will find a way,” said law student Fawaz Shaheen. “The ban is only a cosmetic measure to enforce authority. We do not worry much about it.”

There has surely been no change in the productivity of the students of IIT Guwahati, where internet access is barred in hostel rooms from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays. Students say they still miss classes. “The internet is available on the campus and we can always go out of the hostel to have fun," said MTech student Ramyani Chakrabarty. "Not having internet does not stop us from missing classes. Sometimes, we just need a break.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.