Exploring global and local youth leadership in the rise of technology.

By Helene Szabados

In today’s technologically driven world, we all have the access and platform to make an impact and we also have followers. How does a powerful resource like the internet affect the dynamics of leadership and the next generation?

Peaceful World Foundation hosted its first conversation of our fall series with special guest hosts and 2017 grantees; Holistic Underground and Dalai Llama Fellows. These two organizations dedicate themselves to encouraging and supporting youth leadership, both locally and globally, through programs and platforms that instill mindfulness and well-being.

 

 

Peaceful World Foundation found it fitting to have these organizations discuss the following topic:

Exploring local and global youth leadership within the rise of technology.

To begin our discussion on leadership, we posed an icebreaker about what qualities of leadership we value the most. Here are a few qualities shared among the table:

  • Good communication skills
  • Clarity and humility
  • Flexibility and laughter
  • Team player

One quality that strongly resonated with the group is “knowing when to ask for help.”  Bela Shah, Fellowship Director at Dalai Llama Fellows, expressed an experience she has encountered with youth who live in chaotic, war torn environments. When one is faced with a life of adversities, they can be forced to carry the burden and not ask for help, which can be commonly mistaken for strength. We went into a discussion about self-care and how important it is to start with oneself before leading others. As part of their self-care advocacy, Holistic Underground regularly meets with a therapist which in turn helps them with their work in the community.

 

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We went on to consider what youth looks like in this generation. We identified the new dependency of technology that has risen among parents to pacify their infants. We also talked about how the increased use of technology with children has changed their developmental skills. One participant mentioned an observation a friend of hers had working as a pre-K teacher; children will try to zoom in to the cover page of a children’s book or swipe the bottom of the cover.

 

 

Bela brought up the notion that children “latch on to an identity” while mindlessly browsing the internet. When they have finally found something they identify with they absorb it completely into their lifestyles. As this lifestyle quickly fades out of trend, these children have a feeling of lost identity and go back to browsing the internet for something else to “latch on to.”

Inevitably, we established some pros and cons of technology. Executive Director of Holistic Underground, Mazin Jamal, shared his perspective on the use of technology. He uses his devices and apps as a tool to not only help him manage his life, but also assist with the work that comes with running an organization. From our own experience with technology, we listed a few pros:

  • Being connected to people around the world
  • Unlimited access to information
  • Versatile and personalized management tools
  • Useful applications
  • GPS
  • Time savers

With pros, however, also comes the cons of technology. The responsibility of keeping up with our electronic lives can take time away from our physical world.

  • Mindless activity
  • Constantly upgrading to a new system
  • The effects on our social skills
  • The illusion of multi-tasking
  • Reactive emotional processing
  • Fake news

We posed a question to each organization;

How does one encourage a person who is submerged in an internet lifestyle to move away from their device, socialize and spread peace throughout the community?

Holistic Underground responded that by using the platform a specific person is most comfortable using, Holistic Underground promotes their events and the “Invite” online encourages people to attend and participate.

 

 

Mazin added, “…it is a known fact that a live show is a more powerful experience than watching the uploaded YouTube version. So the same principle applies to community events.” The internet is a great resource of promotion and influential communication.

When one is working to introduce mindful practice through an internet platform to a participant across the world, how does one encourage this person to spread peace in their own community?

The Fellowship Director at Dalai Llama Fellows, Bela, answered by describing the human connection as being so strong, that even “…15 minutes of guided online meditation can make change possible. If someone who is living in an environment of chaos, can feel just 15 minutes of peace, the ripples are created and the knowledge will spread.”

 

 

As a table we concluded the conversation with exploring what the next steps of managing a life with technology are. Holistic Underground described an experience they had collaborating with other members of the educational community. They advised that instead of labeling technology as good or bad, we must recognize what technology is, what it does and how it affects us. A member of Peaceful World Foundation mentioned a cartoon she watched growing up where the characters were friends with their electronics. She remarked that we spend so much time exclaiming “reasons why my device sucks” but we rarely take time to appreciate the array of useful resources it already provides.

 

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Peaceful World Conversations at the Rx Cafe in the Thoreau Center located in the Presidio in San Francisco.

 

“What does a healthy relationship with technology look like?”  If we start by incorporating the practice of mindfulness into our daily electronic routine, the effects of technology in our lives and communities may become clearer. From there we can begin to build a model of healthy technology use and explore the balance of technology in our everyday lives.  Managing our usage and our time online is critical to our well being.

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