Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    My first time on a panel: Arsalyn Youth Forum

    Out of nowhere, I got an invitation from CAUSE to join in an arsalyn youth forum and sit on a panel in front of 150 high school students.  The title of the discussion was Social Media, Civic Engagement and You!  and at first, I was hesitant to jump in due to doubts about how much value I could add.  I certainly had SOME experience with social media, but was it enough to sit on a panel and talk about it? Not to mention, when putting social media into a civic context, I had even LESS to share.

    The young audience

    This doubt about adding value was further magnified on the day of the event, when I read the bios of my fellow panelists.  At the panel table, sitting with me was Diana Nguyen (blogger for the Huffington Post and co-author of, Diane Ellis (lead editor of, Ayofemi Kirby (Director of Strategy and Programs for, and last but not least there was Kristina Lieu (Friend and fellow CASIC intern of class 2010). These rather distinguished panelists, had years of experience and accomplishments over me and in the beginning it was a bit intimidating.  However, after the first few questions, I realized I contributed the ever important student perspective to the panel and began to relax. 

    The distinguished panel

    As the discussion progressed, I was wary about what VC Brad Feld had wrote about panels usually being “dull, vapid, generic, stupid, non-controversial, politically correct, or just plain boring."  At the halfway mark, I felt that as a panel we were not boring but definitely non-controversial since we agreed on every question.  After that realization, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try to be humorous by keeping my answers off the cuff.

    When asked about the shutting down of social networks during the Arab revolutions, I started off with “it sucks," which caught the audience off guard as everyone else on the panel was using fairly formal language.  In another instance, a student asked what news sites had no bias and I joked “well I can tell you that it’s not Fox news.”

     My best line of the night came as a response to a question about whether FB liking or retweeting gave people just enough satisfaction that they would stop contributing to a cause because they felt like they had done their part.  I bluntly told the audience that anyone who felt they did their part by just clicking a button was probably not going to contribute that much anyway.  Furthermore, I explained that slacktivism has some benefits including getting the word out and more importantly providing positive reinforcement for the people behind the cause.  I closed by telling the students "I don’t know if it is just because I am a geek but when I get retweeted, it makes my DAY,” which in addition to illustrating my point got a lot of laughs. 

    I had a whole lot of fun speaking on the panel and hope I was not too over the top that they will not invite me back.  After all, making people laugh and dropping knowledge, what else could I ask for on a Saturday night?    

    CAUSE team