3 Lessons about Social Media and Multiculturalism from #NetCulture

Net Culture: Stories of Culture and Diversity in Social Media is an event that featured inspiring and culturally diverse speakers.  The night’s topic: how social media has helped various individuals and organizations strengthen their identities, roots and friendships. Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend this sold out, two hour event at the Vancouver Public Library.

#NetCulture: The Speakers and Organizing Team

The night featured 10 speakers, each highlighting rich stories from their culture. Here are three key takeaways about social media and multiculturalism that the speakers talked about:

1. It’s not about your age.

Ashok Puri, retiree and father of one of the event organizers, talked about how social media has helped him travel all over the globe without going broke. Ashok charmingly told the story of how CouchSurfing helped him explore the world and meet new friends in the process. A good story teller, Ashok also talked about the friendships he made and the adventures (and misadventures) that came with his travels.

My favourite part of his speech was when he made the point that social media is not about how fast you can type. At its core, social media is about connecting with others, and it’s not just for the young ones anymore. Ashok demonstrated the power of great story-telling –  he  really had the crowd enchanted from the start.

2. Social media can be used as a tool to dispel stereotypes.

UBC’s Ray Hsu and Zi-Ann Lum talked about the birth of Way Too Azn, a direct response to the controversial Maclean’s article “Too Asian?”.  Way Too Azn regularly shares blog posts, videos, and images dispelling stereotypes of what it means to be Asian. Ray and Zi-Ann’s story highlighted the ways that social media can help in confronting some of the misleading stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media.

3. Social media is the perfect tool to build and maintain communities.

Many of the night’s speakers spoke about the use of social media in building and maintaining multicultural communities. RJ Aquino and Jay Catalan spoke about Tulayan, an organization that encourages and assists Filipinos in reconnecting with their culture, heritage & history. Specifically, RJ and Jay talked about the use of Facebook in maintaining a vibrant community. If you take a quick look at Tulayan’s Facebook page, you’ll see community members sharing articles, events, and videos.

Norma Ibarra and Paola V. Murillo from Latincouver also spoke of a similar story. Latincover brings together Latin Americans and Latin enthusiastics living in Vancouver and uses Twitter and Facebook heavily to converse with other members of the Latin community and to promote events.

Overall, Net Culture explored and confronted the intersection between social media and multiculturalism, buzzwords that are often talked about but rarely within the same context. It certainly was an eye-opening night, and I really appreciate that the organizers tried their best not to go over time. There were some minor glitches, which are to be expected for events that heavily use technology such as this.

Some pointed out the noticeable absence of First Nations representation, but I suspect that Tuesday’s Net Culture has just scratched the surface. I expect future events to explore this issue further. The night also featured speeches from Veronica Heringer (from DDB Canada) and Jordana Mah (from Schema Magazine). Kety Esquivel, VP of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, closed the night with a keynote speech that was delivered via Skype. Ajay Masalapuri and Elijah van der Giessen served as the night’s moderators. The night was a resounding success and even attracted the likes of MP Hedy Fry and MP Peter Julian.

For more info, visit Coopculture.com or NetTuesday.ca.

By Kelvin Claveria

Photo credit: Jeremy Lim