Panel Title: Social Media for Social Change
Facilitator: Dr. Saddiga Al-Ghalib
Panelists: Bayan Abuzinadah, Mr. John Smith, Prof. Nazeeh Al-Othmany, Dr. Michael Fast, Mr. Ziad Jarrar, Hanan Maghraby, Syeda Zarlish, and Lama Sabri
This panel discussion shed light on many thought-provoking aspects of social media from the perspectives of academicians, social entrepreneurs, and students.
Several panelists underlined the importance of the “human side” of social media – the relationships behind the technology and the care for one another. If it were not for our inner-lying conscience and feelings, mere technology would have made little positive impact. Others focused on the role of social media in generating mass movements/actions, creating a driving force, and being an outlet for voices that may otherwise be suppressed or unheard.
Having been through several sessions about social media, my head was now juggling thoughts about its implications – pros and cons. And I was just itching to voice them when some of these panelists – to my relief – did just that! Among them was Mr. Ziad’s firm emphasis on “responsible speech” – the balance between free speech and restricted speech. The audience’s questions directed at the panelists also revolved around the same issue – the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media. (It appears I wasn’t the only one toying with these thoughts after all.)
With convenient access, users have an implicit permit to do as and when they please on the Internet – good or bad. With no boundaries, no rules, they have an open floor to speak their minds – positively or negatively. With separate, guised virtual identities, they have the channel to deceive or exploit the naïve. In brief, social media offers a newfound freedom in a sense.
However, at the same time, this freedom is not a ‘gift’ to abuse. In response to the audience’s questions, Professor Nazeeh suggested his solution of practicing self-restraint; and Mr. Ziad re-emphasized responsible expression and the need for creating jurisprudences for the virtual world, approaching it like the real world. Shedding positive light, Mr. Ziad pointed out the opportunity for the development of dialogue amidst the generally cutting criticism tossed back and forth in the virtual world; and Ms. Syeda highlighted the need to share thoughts and feelings to create purposeful, like-minded communities.
“And one thing I find in the social media community it’s a whole new culture. It shows that Saudi youth has so much energy and social media acts as an outlet for them to utilize this energy for something positive. It provides them exposure which is what they need to demonstrate their talents,” she says.
I personally found this panel to be quite constructive. Despite the limited time, the panelists collectively managed to propose general ideas for dealing with this multi-purposed platform of communication.