Social media, undeniably, is a powerful tool that in today’s atmosphere can make or break an individual’s career, determine the success of many products, and influences the many decisions “followers” make. In this context, numerous Influencers have leveraged the digital platforms of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, accessing audiences of millions worldwide. These individuals use social media to stand up for what they believe in, market brands, function as icons and role models for youth while also advancing their careers. Whose voice are they representing when they lend their name to a product or brand? How do they maintain authenticity while being sponsored by companies that are not their own? Most importantly, to what extent do they feel like they have the responsibility to use their powers of influence to cultivate civically engaged dialogue around their work? And ultimately, what are they promoting?
Social media has transformed our perception of what is desirable, and the aspirations of our youth; We must ask ourselves how it has impacted the future of our region. Are our social conducts, and goals now looking more Western? This panel discussion seeks to hold a powerful, discussion on questions around the use of social media to advance topics related to race, government, politics, fashion, and identity. By providing a multi-faceted presentation of the different ways prominent Arab and Arab American influencers use social media as a platform, we hope to present conference attendees with a rich, bird’s eye perspective of the power social media plays in continuing to change homogenized, stereotypical views of Arabs.
Some challenging questions that will be addressed:
(1) Slacktivisim is a term coined by those who study social media trends, it contends that excessive use of social media is actually making the youth less engaged in society and politics. To what extent do you agree with these phenomena and if you believe it is a problem, how do you, as social media influencers, think you can contribute to reversing the trend? What do you currently do to encourage youth to be more actively engaged with issues related to their societies?
(2) Many individuals will use their social media platforms to discuss their views on politics, society, gender and equality. Many of you utilize these platforms as lucrative mediums or for purposes of brand representation. How do you reconcile representing yourself while simultaneously serving as the face or name for a brand that is not your own?
(3) Given that you are often viewed as role models to your followers, what messages do you believe you are sending to the youth?