June 26, 2012

Social Media for the Greater Good: A Recap of My Time at the #140Conf

Last week on June 20th, I was given the opportunity to attend the “State of Now” #140Conf in New York City (one of the coolest experiences of my internship here thus far). Having attended interactive panels at SxSW for several years now, I had my expectations, but this conference was entirely different. Instead of introducing the newest apps and providing advice for start-ups, the “State of Now” talks revolved around how technology can be used not only for businesses but also really meaningful purposes that change lives (or both!). Here’s a rundown of just a few of the talks that inspired me:

“Small Things Matter”

This talk by the aptly named Revolution Maclnnes (@From_Nothing) really set the tone for the rest of the day. Homeless on the street with nothing but a smartphone, Revolution started using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to get basic physical items, starting with a pair of winter boots. He realized that if strangers were willing to help him out, then he could do the same thing for other people. Using the power of social networking, Revolution found ways to connect those in need with people who were willing to help.

“Life. Loss. Love. Learning”

Adam Bellow (@adambellow) sent me to the closest I’ve been to tears in a long time with the heartfelt story of losing one of his premature twins. The inspirational part, however, was what he did with his emotions and how social media played a part in it. Dedicated to showering his son Hunter with love and support, Adam read to him every day, even though Hunter was still very young. Adam decided to write children’s book to read to Hunter, but he needed an illustrator. He put his story out on the Internet, and got a reply from Kelley Jarvis, a mom and illustrator who understood Adam’s story. Together, they completed the book. Later on, Adam’s wife also began social networking and blogging about their journey and story. Using social media, she was able to connect with others going through similar issues, demonstrating that with the Internet, no one is truly ever alone. Adam ended his talk with a quote about the Internet that I haven’t forgotten: “The Internet may be cold, but when we populate it with love, sharing and warmth, it can truly change the world.”

“Conversation with the Chopras”

Because I missed Dr. Deepak Chopra (@DeepakChopra) talk at the Q&A of his son’s film at SxSW, I was very excited for this chance to hear him talk technology. I know that some of Dr. Chopra’s philosophies parallel those of the Buddhist religion, and being Buddhist myself, I was curious as to his thoughts on new social technology. His daughter Mallika (@mallikachopra) and son Gotham (@gothamchopra) accompanied him as he spoke about social media having the ability to create a global identity. The key, he said, is to connect, starting with individuals and reaching out to others. Repeating Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” he emphasized that through social media and new technology we can change lives and create a better world. Through technology, one person really can make a difference by connecting with more people that want to make the same change. In fact, Gotham gave us a great example of this technology utilization in his new YouTube project, The Chopra Well. The channel gives Dr. Chopra an open medium for sharing his knowledge with whomever asks a question, and the thousands of people who watch it. Through technology and social media, Dr. Chopra – one man – could potentially reach millions of people.

DeepakChopra1-resized-600.JPGPhoto: Deepak Chopra, Mallika Chopra and Gotham Chopra speaking at the #140Conf

“The Dear Photograph Story”

DearPhotographIf I have one blatantly noticeable trait, it’s that I document everything. I keep a notebook in my bag, I tweet, I blog, and most importantly, I take photos constantly. People ask me all the time why I do this, and after listening to Taylor Jones (@TJ), the founder of Dear Photograph, speak, I now want to just toss them a transcript of his talk. The concept of “Dear Photograph” is simple: take a physical photograph from the past, hold it up to the same location in the present, take a photo of it, and reflect or write about the change between then and now. Dear Photograph is a compilation of these submissions, which share a wide range of emotions and reactions. Photographs are important because they’re physical, unchangeable copies of memories, whereas memories themselves can be blurred or altered with time. At the end of his 10-minute segment, after throwing disposable cameras into the crowd, he commissioned us: “Take pictures and make memories, because like the flash of a camera, they can all be gone.”

DearPhotographPhoto: The book Dear Photograph by Taylor Jones.

Walking out the doors of the conference, I felt a sense of determination. I put so much time into social media, but how much of it benefits other people? Some of my tweets are written to make people laugh, but is that enough? I decided to think about what I really had to offer to other people, and then it dawned on me. I packed my bags and flew 1,700 miles from Texas to New York for this internship, and I want to do more with this opportunity than just gain experience and another bullet point on my resume. On my website, I’ve put my love for writing to use by offering tips and advice from my personal experience, ranging from photography to weight loss. Since the conference, I’ve become inspired to extend these topics to what I’ve learned while living and working here in my city of dreams. Along with writing to document and writing to entertain, a new focus of mine after attending this conference is writing to inform. Instead of, “this is what I ate today!” I’m going to shift my focus and start with “here’s what I learned today!” After this conference, I’ve changed the way I use social media and am on the road to realizing the full potential of its greater good.

I’ve changed the way I use social media and am on the road to realizing the full potential of its greater good. Do you have any inspirational stories to tell, or have recommendations for blogs of note? Let me know!

— Jaime Cheng