A few months ago, a pregnant woman wrote about being diagnosed with breast cancer on an online portal. She wrote in detail about how her husband and in-laws had turned against her, asking her to undergo an abortion. The woman had not spoken of this to anyone before; she was lonely, and maybe even suicidal.
Since then, a number of people have left comments on her confession, offering sympathy and support, and advising her on how to pursue her case medically, and how, if she wanted to, she could make a legal case against her husband and in-laws. The woman never replied to those comments, but the founders of the portal claim that in cases like these, just venting frustration and hearing supportive voices can sometimes be of immense help.
This interaction took place on SharingDard, a social networking website meant for sharing grief and emotional turmoil founded by four young entrepreneurs who graduated from IIM Lucknow in 2011. According to them, as urban lives become increasingly insular and lonely, with social networking sites and their emphasis on virtual as opposed to real-life relationships often aggravating the issue, they wanted to create an online social platform where people could express their grief and sorrow. “What happens on websites like Facebook and Twitter is you always want to put your best foot forward. You never really share your real self, your grief and issues. Our idea was to use the anonymity the online world provides so users can anonymously and honestly express whatever is afflicting them and seek support,” says founder Ritika Sharma.
Sharma, originally from Chandigarh, moved to Mumbai after she landed her first job at an MNC. However, the difficulties of handling a first job, especially in a corporate set up, and the loneliness that comes with moving to a new city made her want to start a venture to address these issues. The other founders—Sumant Gajbhiye, Lima James and Gaurav Rajan Ghoota—also had similar experiences and they all quit their jobs to focus on the portal.
Currently, the website has 62,000 registered users and a new story is shared every 15 minutes or so. Most stories relate to workplace issues, relationships and marriage. In one, a widowed single mother talks of how her second husband turned out to be abusive. In others, homosexuals express the difficulties they face finding acceptance. “There are many lonely or depressed people out there who simply want someone to listen to them,” Sharma says.