Looking back on my Soliya Connect Express Experience I would say it would best be described as a REQUIREMENT I GREW TO LIKE. This is in the sense that it is a requirement for a course I registered for through my university but I grew to enjoy joining the zoom meetings, and the biggest testament to that is that I logged on even when I was fasting (during Ramadan, meaning I could not eat or drink until sunset) and spoke for 2 hours even though it left me thirsty and my throat dry, that’s how compelling the conversations were.

This reflection will answer the provided prompt questions starting with Question 1: How does the dialogue in Connect Express differ from other types of online communication you are familiar with? Why is it different?

The dialogue in Connect Express differs from other types of online communication mainly in the fact that it does not seem hostile. In most cases I’ve seen online people are quick to leave a negative comment and attack people’s characters in a very direct and offensive manner even if there was no need to do so. However, within the program the dialogue was respectful regardless of whether or not everyone agreed.

I think that this difference is because everyone is logged on to the program was prepared for and willing to have open conversations. This was also helped by the “mini constitution” the group as a whole came up with in the very first meeting session. I felt like we were collectively respectful and mindful because we set the ground rules of how we will conduct dialogue ourselves. I also believe that the mutual understanding that no one had bad intentions and that all questions were coming from a place of genuine curiosity, helped make everyone more open to answering harder questions without feeling offended.

Question 2: What did you learn about the type of communicator you are in the digital world? (As a media consumer, content producer, or sharer of content)
I learned that I mainly communicate with my immediate circle and rarely post content with the intention of having it shared publicly. This is not new information for me but it was highlighted when I compared my social media activity to everyone else in my group. I also learned that I can communicate well in spoken mediums such as the zoom meetings and that I am much more comfortable communicating in that way as opposed to the traditional day to day social media apps such as Instagram and Twitter.
As a media consumer, this experience highlighted to me the stereotypes often portrayed in media and the agendas behind them and confirmed to me that I should not form complete options based on what I see in the media. This was clear in our group discussion when we shared stereotypes we had of other cultures present in the group and found that almost non of them held true.

Question 3: What can you do to foster constructive communication both online and in face- to-face interactions?

To foster constructive communication regardless of the medium, I think that it is important for me to state that I mean no disrespect and that I have no hostility when I start communicating with people or conversing with them. I think this is an important basis on which most conversations need to be built since it disarms others and it could help them put their guards down since they are less likely to feel attacked. It is also important for me to listen to make the conversation fruitful ( I think that is pretty self explanatory).
I also think it is important to not expect of others what I am not willing to do or accept. If I put myself in their shoes and find something offensive that should deter me from offending them. In other words empathy is important in any conversion and especially cross cultural ones, and with that comes and understanding and an acceptance that not everyone will find the same things acceptable and okay to speak about.

Media Connecting People and Weaving Common Threads:

It felt important for me to highlight a common theme that I noticed from the first session all the way to the last one, international media connected all of us. Perhaps the one conversation that highlights this the most was one that erupted once someone mentioned Disney Channel shows. Every single person in the session jumped into the conversation and we collectively got very excited sharing all the memories we had growing up with these shows. It could possibly be one of the rare moments where we took control of the conversation and had it naturally flow. I had to bring this up because I felt that my reflection highlighted the media as a device to separate people while that is not always true as evident by the above story, and the fact that when I tried to find common ground with people in this program I always fall back onto movies, TV shows and music.

Overall, this experience was very fun and interesting and felt like a break from the bubble I am living in (made smaller by the current healthcare conditions of the world).

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