Sarah Zaytoun & Raghid Naimi
A great amount of people filled the Issam Fares Hall to attend one of the biggest conferences of the year presented by the Online Collaborative Club at AUB, entitled, “Social Media Changing Lives,” on Friday. The event was in partnership with ArabNet and Digital Media Solutions (DMS), and with the technical assistance of SeeBeck Audio.
The Online Collaborative Club at AUB seeks to gather social media enthusiasts and experienced individuals in the digital media world to help promote proper digital citizenship through making the most of social media in the best ways possible.
It is safe to say that social media has emerged drastically in the world and is expanding even more now in the Middle East. The highly anticipated conference touched on the fact that social media is now not only related to technology, but is also revolutionizing every part of our lives.
The organizers of the conference faced a nine hour challenge of managing and introducing presentations and performances by some of the most prominent digital media users and enthusiasts from the Arab world who ranged from students, social activists, bloggers, university professors, directors and CEOs.
“Twiplomacy” in Action:
Mohammad Hijazi, president and founder of the Online Collaborative Club opened the conference with a welcome note and then introduced the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Tom Fletcher, who gave his speech about how Twitter can change diplomacy. He asserted during his speech that, “Increasingly, it matters less what a minister or diplomat says is our policy on an issue – and more what Google, Facebook or Twitter says is our policy.” On the other hand, Farid Chehab, honorary Chairman and advisor to the board of Leo Burnett for the MENA Region and author of “A Bet for National Conscience,” emphasized the importance of social networks in starting and supporting public causes and expressed his uncertainty about whether these online campaigns are sustainable on the long run.
Business and NGO’s Benefit:
“Social media is saving lives,” said Teyrouz, Founder of Donner Sang Compter.
Founder and Action President of Donner Sang Compter, Yorgui Teyrouz, spoke of how social media tools help to raise awareness to the important cause of donating blood. He explained that social media has four main responsibilities, which are to recruit, raise awareness, educate, and to be used as a marketing tool. Teyrouz further explained that his most important volunteers are online, who help to share and create interactions. He closed by stating social media is “saving lives.”
Other panelists who partook in the conference targeted social media’s influence on political decisions and business, and social media for personal use.
When Culture takes part in Social Media:
Culture did not escape the social media buzz with several inspirational speakers sharing with the audience how they were able to convey social change through their “digital voice” that they could not keep silent. Riham Kowatly, manager at “Be7ke,” the first Ramadan Web Series that helps to inspire youth by breaking stereotypes and share their experiences, explained, “the media is a powerful force in our lives, but we need to voice our views because we know ourselves more than anyone.” Aliaa El Zeiny, an Egyptian Blogger and Political Science student at AUB, said that it is the Arab Women’s role to show “THEM” who Arab Women are.
Some people shared a different view on social media like Maan Barazi, Editor at Business at eBusinessLebanon. Instead of labeling this emergence as “social” media, Barazi prefers to call it the “new” media. He closed his presentation by asking, “Is social media changing lives or are lives changing social media?”
The Arts and Entertainment:
The conference was not just about the innovative discussions and thought-provoking presentations, but also fit into the schedule was lunch provided by Crepaway and coffee from Dunkin Donuts. The audience was entertained by a “Social Media Standup Comedy” show by Malek Teffaha, event organizer and Head Editor at Gaming Desk of Giga LB, who left the audience laughing with his clever comedic act, poking fun of the misuses and overuses of Facebook and Twitter.
The eventful day came to an end with the venue being rocked by musical performances by EpiSode, Lazzy Lung, Anthony Touma, and Poly, who all shared their experiences with social media as well.