Socially Awkward at the Social Good Summit?

From the moment you stepped into the foyer at the 92nd Street YMCA, you knew that this Saturday was going to be a bit different. After all, this wasn't a trip to trip-up on the treadmill, this was a chance to be socially awkward at the Social Good Summit, and that's an opportunity that deserved not to be missed.

I know, you are surprised that I felt so out of my element at an event that screams "extrovert wanted, apply here" with "this means you Myrdin" in large font beneath it, but the truth is that at this particular event I felt completely out of my comfort zone. Sure, I can talk (boy do we know I can talk) about community connectivity and sustainability issues (and I've written about them as well) but this is an event that is being live streamed, real-time translated in seven languages, where simultaneously there would be 200 meet ups in 100 countries. This was...HUGE. And here I was, standing in the foyer, taking a moment to just...breathe.

But the truth is...that was the last moment I had to really breathe. Because once I was handed my official blogger credentials I was well on my way to moments that would literally make me catch my breath. Moments such as when Hilary Clinton (via video) reminded us all that "Anyone can be a diplomat, all you have to do is hit send." Moments when Kathy Calvin of the UN Foundation reminded us that "as committed citizens there is something we all can do." Moments when (during an interview by my friend Chrysula Winegar) the President of Women Deliver, Jill Sheffield, reminded us that " information really is power and without information some powerlessness follows."

But it wasn't just those moments, and believe me, there were plenty of moments. So many that the Social Good Summit with it's #SGSglobal twitter moniker was trending only an hour or so into the event! Todd Park (Chief Technology Officer of the United States) pointing out that "you can't feed my daughter data" and that we need to "jujitsu it (data) into the public domain." Moments where we learned how digital is redefining diplomacy because you can connect with everyone at every moment. How the digital divide is being conquered and that by providing cell phone access we might be able to eliminate pediatric AIDS and reduce teen pregnancy. 

But it was the moments with fellow attendees that perhaps matter the most. Like reuniting with all my fellow Shot@Life Champions (Ilina Ewen, Jennifer Burden, Nicole Melancon, Tracy Clark, and LaShaun Martin), good friend Amy Graff and meeting some friends in person for the first time like Fadra Nally (and if not for Fadra I wouldn't have read Jacqueline Novogratz's The Blue Sweater-loved it!) and amazing leaders at the UN Foundation, Aaron Sherinian and Devi Thomas. But it wasn't just re-connecting with those that I already know, it was making new connections as well:

  • Julia Nagel of the Center for Strategic & International Studies
  • Anupam Chakravarty of Georgetown University
  • Sharon Feder of Mashable
  • Damon Kornhauser of ourmagination
Each had a reason for being there, for wanting to talk, share, and engage in a dialogue about change, transformation, about what social good means. 

Teddy Ruge, of Project Diaspora
"We don't need you to create solutions for us, we can create solutions for ourselves."

And that's the big question, isn't it? Sometimes a socially awkward question. Because being socially good means something different you than it means to me. And all the presentations, whether it was about "Wrestling Malaria" with the WWE Divas and Nothing But Nets, Ocean Conservation, Creating Community Connections, Greenpeace, Crowdring, Save the Children...all had one common thread: social media can make an impact. As much as navigating Google Earth may make you feel like Alice walking through the looking glass, this remarkable tool can change how you advocate.  

So what's your story? What's your vision? What's your solution? 

Far too often we look to those who are already on the path and ask them to carry the responsibility of driving change. We like their facebook status, we re-tweet a tweet, we perhaps make a comment on a blog. Then we return to our day feeling as if we contributed something...when there is still so much to do. If only one person has to move the pile of sand with tweezers, that pile of sand will never be moved. If a group of people with shovels move the sand, it will be moved in moments. Make your moments matter. 

At the end of the day, we all need to ask ourselves "How will you turn your social footprint into steps worth following?" And that's really why we all feel socially awkward. Because we don't know where we should be stepping. We don't want to mis-step, so we never take the first step. We inhibit ourselves because we are so afraid of making a mistake, of looking...awkward. But the truth is everyone, even Peter Gabriel who was a surprise guest yesterday, feels that way at times. Because technology has changed, well, everything. We are connected in ways that challenge our boundaries of social niceties and perceptions. We no longer can pretend not to know, or feign ignorance on how something, someone, or some place has an impact and resonance on our lives. We must be willing to be socially awkward in order to be socially connected and concerned. 

We must all decide, as Emerson said, that we will "not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and blaze a trail."

New York, 2012


  1. What a great post. It's comforting to know that others felt out of their element. I did, too, but better than last year. I wish we had met!

  2. So well said, Myrdin, I want to re-experience the weekend again! How true - I for one don't act sometimes because I want to do the right thing or at least not the wrong thing and sit around debating what to do or not do and then it seems to late. Thanks for the reminder.