Published: 16th March 2021
Go Girl Tribe: How MissMalini's women-only social media app is killing trolling, online abuse
Malini Agarwal's Girl Tribe is here to help provide a safe space for women and rewards positive thoughts and actions
Cyberspace has become our second society and here there are no rules on how to behave. Trolling, abusing and even threats have become a daily phenomenon. Women have to face the brunt of it even more. How do women socialise then? Digital influencer and TV host Mailini Agarwal, better known as MissMalini on the internet, has come up with a social media app just for women — Girl Tribe. Malini says she wants to "unsee the numbers and see the people again" and that might help sensitise a lot of people — human interaction is the key. We spoke to Malini about Girl Tribe, its journey from a Facebook group to a social media app, internet toxicity and of course the unique idea of Positivity Points.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How did the idea for Girl Tribe come about? The Positivity Points system is unique — how did you come up with this?
The Girl Tribe App started when Facebook launched “groups” and I decided to add 100 girlfriends to test it. It started growing rapidly and now has 60,000 active members. Through the group and constant interactions, we quickly realised that women are looking for a place to connect with each other without the constant trolling sexual harassment and judgement we all face online. We also realised that much of social media has morphed from a place of making friends and networking to an incessant race for likes and followers, often having a strong adverse impact on mental health and well-being. From FOMO to fatigue, social media can be a toxic place — in order to reprogram everyone’s thinking, we decided to build the Girl Tribe and remove the concept of likes and followers and replace them with Positivity Points and Good Vibes. In the app every time you start a meaningful conversation or comment on someone else’s you earn Positivity Points that can be redeemed for actual products and experiences in the Tribe Store, encouraging people to engage with each other in a more wholesome way. In the App the more you give, the more you get and how much you give is always in your hands.
Girl Tribe promises a 100% troll-free safe space. What are the protocols in place? How would you ensure security? How would you prevent someone from making a fake profile?
This is probably the biggest challenge for any social media platform, especially those dedicated to women. Because, sadly, we all know where women congregate the creeps will follow. So, we take great pains to verify each profile through phone number verification and/or ID submission. We also have moderators who work around the clock checking every single conversation that is submitted to ensure the quality and values of the group stay intact. In addition, we have mechanisms for the community to report behaviour that goes against our community values and we’re building machine-assisted tools to support our moderators. It takes a lot more effort than just making a platform and making it a free-for-all but we truly feel this is the need of the hour and something that makes Girl Tribe unique. One more learning we’ve had is that setting the right tone from the beginning and standing by your values has a positive impact on the community at large. When you are surrounded by positivity it brings the best out in you, in ways that might surprise you.
Internet toxicity is increasing every day — how do we sensitise people?
I think the most important thing we need to do is unsee the numbers and see the people again. We have become so toxic towards each other online because we rarely even see each other as human beings anymore. The one rule we have always followed at MissMalini be it in our interactions or our content is “only write what you would be willing to say to someone’s face”. You’ll be amazed at what a great filter that is and something everyone should apply even to how they comment or engage with others online. I also think it would be great to introduce some kind of education at a young age of how to navigate the internet and use social media in a healthy, productive manner. We receive training on so many other aspects of our life, why not on something that increasingly dominates so much of our time and attention?
What has your experience been like on social media? How did you deal with it?
I have to thank the Internet for my career, it was built online! But over the years, I have seen how it has changed. In some cases, it has opened up amazing career avenues for people and in others, it has had a very damaging effect through Internet bullying and harassment. I have come across my share of trolls over the years and I would be lying if I said they never got to me, but I have come to realise over time that the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is indifference. I think a lot of trolls are just unhappy, lonely people and perhaps there is a way to change how we all behave online. I am actually writing my second book on this subject, it’s called “The Accidental Troll”, stay tuned! I think my goal now is to create a kinder, safer Internet experience for women through the Girl Tribe App.
How has the reception been?
I am thrilled to say we have over 100 five-star reviews in the App store, the girls have really taken to it and constantly tell us how transformative it is to have a safe space to share anything and everything with a receptive, supportive Tribe. We also offer a variety of unique experiences and opportunities through the Tribe, for Girl Bosses to promote their businesses, master classes, expert advice, sharing circles, virtual happy hours with celebrities and even offline events so people can meet and interact in person! For now of course we’re keeping safe and doing these virtually but the pandemic has actually brought to light how much a community like this can help, especially those who are isolated and need a support system or just someone to talk to!
While an all-girl network does ensure more safety in today's world, how do we sensitise the other genders about internet decorum and make them aware of why it is wrong to behave a certain way online even though the other person is not in front of you?
I completely agree that this is an issue that all genders must tackle together. We have in fact launched a campaign by the Girl Tribe called “Ignore No More Online”. Essentially informing women and men both about the rules that apply to social media behaviour. A lot of people aren’t aware that sexual harassment online, outraging a woman’s modesty, cyberstalking or using his or her pictures without permission is actually all crimes punishable by law. This campaign brings all of that to light to help empower women and men being attacked online and hold those who engage in this heinous behaviour accountable. We even work with cybercops to call out these men and often teenage boys who indulge in sexual harassment and trolling for the heck of it and it’s amazing how quickly they go from calling someone unmentionable names to “sorry Didi”. We hope the Girl Tribe and Ignore No More Online together will make a significant impact to change how men and women engage and interact online. Till then we offer a safe haven for women to be themselves on the Girl Tribe App!