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SXSW Moments: Social Media Power

The Forrest Four-Cast: May 15, 2019

In a much-talked about opinion piece in the New York Times, Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, makes a compelling case that the company has grown too large, should be broken up, and that Mark Zuckerberg in particular has grown so powerful that his reign at an unchecked Facebook threatens our democracy to its core. Nearly everyone agrees that social media has upended everything from news to dating to travel and so much more.

Should we all just unfriend? Can we? SXSW 2019 explored a variety of ways technology and social media impact our lives for better and for worse, and asked how we improve our use of these tools.

Is Social Media the New Fast Food?
Will social media face the same fate as fast food restaurants, which are ebbing into irrelevance as young consumers’ take their money, mouths, and loyalty to healthier alternatives? In this session, social media professionals and digital marketers debate the future of their industry considering questions such as: Will young consumers’ digital detox become the next wellness movement? What are platforms’ and marketers’ ethical responsibilities to create “healthy” content? What does “healthy” content look like? How will these factors impact engagement and ROI? Speakers challenge the evolution of social media and the future of digital marketing as the industry comes under pressure to offer consumers “healthier” options.

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Eli Pariser, 2018 inductee to the SXSW Interactive Hall of Fame

What Does Healthy Technology Look Like?
Eli Pariser led, coined the term “filter bubble” in 2011, and co-founded Upworthy. In this immersive session, he shares a new framework — drawn on research from social science and in-depth conversations with leading technologists — for thinking about not just what’s wrong with the online world but how we might make it right.

Don’t @ Venice: Instagram is Killing Bucket Lists
Ever see that perfect shot on social media and think, “Wow I want to go there”? Yeah — and so did everyone else. Little by little, we’re ruining these picture perfect destinations. Bucket list stops like Machu Picchu, that spot in Thailand where “The Beach” was filmed, and the city of Venice, are trying to find ways to combat the over-tourism that risks ruining them permanently. Amsterdam, for example, has created an app that will show you lesser-known (but equally fascinating) alternatives to popular destinations. Instagram influencers have stopped geo-tagging their photos. Others are changing regulations to make travel to their city more expensive. This panel deep dives into the issue and discuss who is responsible, what can be done — and needs to be done — to save these destinations.

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Send Nudes? Meet Teens Flighting Sexual Harassment
Boys texting girls to “send nudes” is the new teen flirting ritual. Sexual harassment has been normalized. Hear horror stories of how high school is a breeding ground for sexual harassment and why existing adult-made solutions just don’t cut it. Learn how Avni Singh, an entrepreneur and senior at Austin High School, is adapting Kathleen Reardon’s Spectrum for Sexual Misconduct framework to high school and developing an “Am I Being Harassed?” app. Her company, Girl Alliance, helps teen girls confidently recognize and handle online sexual harassment, specifically boys asking girls for nudes. Since its inception in November of 2016, Girl Alliance has received a patent for a harassment reporting method, assembled a team of 20 teen ambassadors and four advisors, built a website that serves as an online platform for teen girls to share and receive advice regarding harassment and more.

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Bye Felipe: Disses, Dick Pics and Online Dating
In an online world increasingly filled with harassment and trolling, women bear the brunt of hostile sexual messages. Over half of young women say they’ve been sent explicit images that they didn’t ask for, according to Pew. After one too many of these hostile encounters, Alexandra Tweten created the viral Instagram account @ByeFelipe, which calls out men who turn hostile when rejected or ignored. Her new book, “Bye Felipe: Disses, Dick Pics, and Other Delights of Modern Dating” blends humor and feminist theory to showcase the worst examples of online sexist behavior, explore why men harass women in this way, teach women tactics they can employ to fight back, and solutions for what we can do about the trolls.

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Divorce a la Facebook: Kids trapped in the middle
Ginger Gentile investigates stories of families affected by divorce in her feature documentary, “Erasing Family.” She discovers a whole world of parents and children who went through the divorce courts and are hurt by this system. They take to social media instead, vent frustrations and seek justice. Children of divorce are using social media to reach judges and asking why they can’t see their mom or dad. Abusive text messages from bitter exes go viral. Such posts have power in court proceedings and even create virtual mobs. On the other end, some use social media to search for and reunite with families estranged after divorce. This talk features real posts and tweets to illustrate how divorce impacts us all, and how we can make separations within families a healthier experience.

The Digital Loneliness Epidemic: Reshaping Social Media
This panel takes a look at the global rise in depression and loneliness as it correlates to social media use. It highlights findings by various recent reports that illustrate the pervasive nature of the problem and delve into possible solutions. It also showcases how powerful real interactions and digital technologies that enable real communication can be in tackling the issue.

Generation Lonely: 10,000 Followers and No Friends
We can connect and communicate more quickly than ever, but, as a society, we’re lonelier and more disconnected. This panel discusses what’s behind the increasing feelings of social isolation and loneliness, what can be done to change it and the medical and mental ramifications of being lonely — for example, doctors now think it’s connected to the huge increase in inflammatory diseases. Panelists Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, and the Director of the Social Neuroscience lab, at Brigham Young University, and Dawn Fallik, an award-winning medical reporter specializing in database analysis, and an associate professor at the University of Delaware, also talk about the stigma of loneliness and why that makes it so hard to create programs and offer help.

More Memories from SXSW 2019
Change is Coming
Urban Mobility
It’s Time for Sports!
Saving the Ocean
Military Matters
Women’s Health
Telling New Media Stories
Marvel’s Magic
Future Health
May the Fourth
Women in Tech
Growing Unicorns
Thriving at Work
Making a Difference
Fighting Fake News
Disaster Response
Hacking Democracy
Pete Buttigieg
Kara Swisher
Arlan Hamilton

Do these audio recordings inspire you to get involved in a SXSW session next year? Enter your forward-thinking speaking proposal for March 2020 via the SXSW PanelPicker. Speaking proposals for next year’s event are accepted via this interface from July 1 through July 19.

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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