Social Media Mela or Twitterati kitty party?

Published: July 14, 2012
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They were chatting and laughing loudly, complimenting each other any chance they could find at their grand kitty party. DESIGN: IMAAN SHEIKH

The little enlightenment anyone got from it was points raised by Beena Sarwar. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/ THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE Probably, the only entertaining bit of the Maya Khan session was moderator Faisal Kapadia’s humorous remarks. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/ THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE They were chatting and laughing loudly, complimenting each other any chance they could find at their grand kitty party. DESIGN: IMAAN SHEIKH

Yesterday afternoon, I was at the Social Media Mela, (better known as SocMM12) at Avari Towers, Karachi. As I neared the hall where the particular session I had to attend was to be held, I heard they were running late ─ and fashionably so.

When I first saw #SocMM12 trending on Twitter, I immediately thought of guns (let’s blame rap songs on the radio for this). When I found out what it really was and I took a look at the event guide online, I made a biased assumption; this wasn’t going to really be a broad-horizoned ‘social media’ mela; it was going to be one big tweet-up.

As I sat outside the Indus hall for fifteen minutes, awaiting the session, many people who looked familiar walked by. These prominently included a spectacled, curly-haired girl, who turned out to be Mehreen Kasana; and a woman in a gaudy, yellow kurta with a bindi on her forehead, who, to my surprise, did not turn out to be Marvi Sirmed.

Since the session I had to attend was delayed by almost an hour, I decided to attend Sana Kazmi’s ‘How I Got To Mohali’ session. Having heard her name on Twitter a lot, I was curious to see her in real life.

Upon entering the hall, I realised I was totally underdressed. Everyone else had suited up and here I was – hair unkempt, nose unpowdered, in my creased pick-anything-for-work outfit.

“So this is a tweet-up”, I said to myself, as I saw many prominent Twitterati in the hall.

Social media mela? I don’t know. I think it should have been called the ‘Indo-Pak Twitterati kitty party’ or the ‘Subcontinental Tweet-up’. And I say ‘Indo-Pak’ not because there were many Indians there, but because most Pakistanis were dressed like Indians. I thought they were from India until I heard them throw questions at the panel and tell them that they were Pakistani. Saris and bindis everywhere!

A way of welcoming our friends from across the border, perhaps?

With the exception of a few faces, all I saw was middle-aged, Twitter-savvy liberals kissing up to each other. They were chatting and laughing loudly, complimenting each other at any chance they could find. Some were seen looking like they we holding a very important discussion, but upon moving closer, one would discover that they were engaged in talking about something banal and obvious. In all, it looked like a kitty party of Pakistani elites who were friends and very active in the social media scene (just Twitter, really). They are often seen giving each other shout-outs on Twitter and inviting each other for dinners out of social media courtesy.

Sana Kazmi’s session went well. Although it seemed as though she had little experience addressing to an audience, I found her to be one of the most pleasant speakers there. It was quite an enjoyable half hour where she told about her amazing Twitter experience that landed her and her friends seats in the 2012 cricket world cup semi-final in Mohali. I’m glad I chose to attend this session because the one I was looking forward to ─ The Maya Khan Takedown: In Praise of Slactivism ─ had little to offer.

Probably, the only entertaining bit of the Maya Khan session was moderator Faisal Kapadia’s humorous remarks. The little enlightenment anyone got from it was points raised by Beena Sarwar. Occasional laughter was heard over Kasana’s comments, who I found to be as funny in real life as on her blogs. Upon being asked what we’ve gained from the Maya Khan takedown, Marvi Sirmed digressed into irrelevant details of unrelated things. After a good five minutes of incessantly telling everyone how she was suspected to be a CIA agent at age eight, she was interrupted by Kapadia to answer the real question. This did not stop her from going on another five minutes; only this time, it was a tad relevant.

A person from the audience I totally expected to raise his hand was Mohsin Sayeed. And, boy, did he have an agenda! He barely gave the panellists a break to respond and went on about how he thinks that slactivism targets are misogynistic picks. I don’t understand how this is misogynistic because the list includes Amir Liaquat and Mubashir Lucman, too. Saeed basically ordered everyone to point fingers at Kamran Shahid.

When I got done with the session, I moved to the refreshments section to see the speakers off stage and possibly talk to some ─ but for the most part, to grab something to eat! Of course, they were too busy talking to each other. A generally loud, jolly Mohsin Sayeed was seen hugging a confused, unwilling looking Sabeen Mahmud. A bunch of girls flipped their hair and occasionally talked in Urdu in their broken, made-up accents.

I sighed and moved forth to get my hands on some cinnamon sticks – easily one of the highlights of my day.

Read more by Imaan here or follow her on Twitter @SheikhImaan

Imaan Sheikh

Imaan Sheikh

An graduate with a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi, she enjoys reading, writing and listening to classical psychedelic rock. She blogs at www.imaansheikh.wordpress.com and tweets as @SheikhImaan (twitter.com/SheikhImaan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • AhmedMaqsood

    “Dear Diary, today I went to a party and nobody talked to me, so I’m going to write about it”.

    Seriously, this is what I get most out of this blog entry. You could have stuck to saying that the speakers went on tangents and it had little to offer etc and talked about the other sessions instead of just the two you mentioned, but you preferred to use the kitty party/twitterati angle. That’s just lazy.Recommend

  • http://atornpageofmydiary.blogspot.com/ Tauseef Mallick

    Kamaal karti ho… Such a detailed and neatly observed piece is hard to find, it requires skills of-course.
    After reading it once, i will now read it again to enjoy those little descriptions about the happenings. AmazingRecommend

  • Op

    gud one..these mummy daddies have nothing to do with our society…they have their own world…so better leave them alone with their lives.Recommend

  • imaan.sheikh

    @AhmedMaqsood:
    Of course they didn’t talk to me, haha. I’m a very ordinary person. I wasn’t ‘hip’ enough, I guess. :)
    They were all too busy among their friends.
    As for preferring to use the Twitterati kitty party angle; why not? Someone had to. Everyone writes about what happens at sessions and who says what. It’s all in the angles. ;)

    Recommend

  • Maher

    dear SHRM learning event in Iqra Uni was far better than ur KITTY PARTY…. Recommend

  • http://www.desiwriterslounge.net Afia

    How could you possibly ignore the day-long programme of sessions on every conceivable topic connected to social media and, more importantly, the attendance at those sessions? If this was the sham you’re making it out to be, the halls wouldn’t have been going full… people would’ve just been milling outside the whole time. The sessions on internet bullying, entrepreneurship, minority rights and twitter literature were solid. People had fun, networked AND learnt a lot. I’d call that a successful social media summit, not a party parading as a social media summit.Recommend

  • imaan.sheikh

    @Afia:
    Dear Afia. Nowhere have I said that it wasn’t a successful summit, it’s hasn’t even ended yet. Of course people have learnt something from it, as was the goal. What I highlighted is just the baggage that came with it.

    Recommend

  • Ali Rahman

    Dear Imaan

    This has become our national character… to be nitpicking! I really wanted to attend the Social Media Mela but couldn’t due to some personal reasons. However, I was very actively following it online. A great number of important topics related to social media were discussed. It certainly wasn’t about “elite” as you say since i know many “mango people” who attended and were a part of the panels. Actually some of the (so called) elites, like Mehreen Zahra actaully reflected in her tweet, her surprise over panelists/speakers not being from the calss you refer to. https://twitter.com/mehreenzahra/status/223826191830888448 With regards to being ordinary, it is our own doings which can make us extraordinary. A few months back, I was just a banker. I started writing, talking to people, got myself involved in a lot of things trying to add value to issues I faced as a common man. And I have been blessed with a good lot of people who have been very supportive. People like Ayesha Tammy Haq, Beena Sarwar, Faisal Kapadia, and many more. And I can see from yout TL on twitter that people were happy to see you too there!

    We need to learn to enjoy and celebrate good happenings. This certainly was an event in the positive direction.

    Regards

    AliRecommend

  • http://awaisaftab.blogspot.com F.

    @imaan.sheikh:
    Great write-up Imaan! I don’t know you but I’d certainly want to talk to someone who writes likes this–you seem to take to matters with a scalpel, cutting through to the core, and then you have the humility and humor to laugh at the absurdity you find. Far from ordinary, I’d say, but be warned though: the Pakistani blogosphere/twitterverse is still in its small-town stage and you don’t play pretend like everyone else. Egos bruise easily. /:)Recommend

  • anti_fake-sters

    hahahaha Nailed it lady . Must appreciate your observation . Good to hear thee with thy genuineness thrived there and could write such an amazing piece. They were the same as their tweets. Well done.Recommend

  • imaan.sheikh

    @Ali Rahman:
    Dear Ali. Thank you for your comment. I do understand your point. And yes, many of my friends (mango people) enjoyed the event too. In fact I might go to it tomorrow to discover more about what it has to offer. But just like Mehreen Zahra said, I found that the choice of panellists could have been better. And I’m not just talking about the sessions I attended.
    For instance, I am a fan of that Ali Gul Pir video (Waderai Ka Beta) but I fail to understand how he qualifies to be a speaker at this event. I also found a few topics that were not worth the time and discussion. Some that did have potential were sort of stretched and drained. This is all I felt.
    I do appreciate summits like this. Who doesn’t like educational programmes? But we need to choose our opinion leaders wisely or at least set a benchmark.

    I am sure the people you have mentioned are very friendly. :) In no way do I intend to say they’re not friendly or nice. They are social media people. That answers it.

    Thank you.

    Recommend

  • imaan.sheikh

    @F.:
    Thank you for the heads-up! I’ll be careful, haha. :)Recommend

  • http://www.ahkath.com AHKath

    Ohhhh God…. what a lame story!!!!
    And surprisingly how did I miss so many Saari and Bindi wali ladies??? Or I missed those Indianized people during the entire summit of 2 days except Marvi Sirmed on the 1st day as stated by Imaan Sheikh ???

    “most Pakistanis were dressed like Indians. I thought they were from India until I heard them throw questions at the panel and tell them that they were Pakistani. Saris and bindis everywhere!**

    I must get myself to an ophthalmologist for my thorough eye-checkup :)

    I wish someone from the PeaceNiche Team had invited Imaan Sheikh to attend all the sessions of Social Media Mela’12 and met her at least.

    PEACERecommend

  • Sheikh’s Fan.

    Imaan, TSM par chaaney k baad tussi itthay bhi chaa gaye! :PRecommend

  • Ahmedullah

    What? Since when is the sari not Pakistani, and just indian? I still remember the father of the nation’s mother dressed in elegant saris. Oh, I forget…we suddenly decided that we were Arab a few decades. Though we have somehow clung on to that quintessential indian language of Urdu from gangetic plain as our own. Hmmm… Very puzzling indeed!!Recommend

  • Anthony Permal

    In all fairness, I distinctly remember only seeing Marvi and perhaps one other lady in a sari. I think it was Annie Zaidi that too at the end of Day 2 only.

    Did I miss something? Recommend

  • NotPeaceNiche

    How banal, pointless and at some junctions, utterly misleading.

    Coming from someone who was there on both days, in their entirety, let me just re-ask you a question someone asked you in the comments before me. What #socmm12 were you attending where the majority of the female populace was dressed up in ‘saaris and bindis’? Honestly. :/

    Secondly, this US vs THEM debate that keeps sprouting whenever there’s an event pertaining to a social cause that’s attended by those on the ‘other (read: better) side of the bridge’ is marginalized as being the ‘elites that live in their own world oblivious to the problems of ‘us’ ( the really becharay, ghareeb, knowledgeable awaam’). PeaceNiche allowed free entry to all the applicants selected thereby getting rid of the economic costs that would have discouraged people from meager financial backgrounds from showing up. You can’t drag an unwilling audience to an event that they’re not interested in.

    And why are you surprised by people tweeting constant updates at the summit? It’s on social media. That’s akin to going to an Apple convention and whining about everyone being an Apple fanboy. A lot of people had registered AS live bloggers for the event, while the rest were just people who wanted to share stuff with the world in real-time.

    Mohsin Sayeed hugging an ‘seemingly unwilling’ Sabeen Mahmud is just a biased and pointless observation to make. :/

    But yeah… Recommend

  • http://www.desiwriterslounge.net Afia

    Pardon me, Imaan, but you’ve grossly misrepresented the event in your attempt to highlight its baggage. Now that it’s over, do you plan to write a follow-up blogpost to reassess its authenticity? I’m guessing not. In the meantime, I and another colleague just heard from someone on Twitter, asking how much we were paid to attend this kitty party organised by the US embassy where everyone was wearing saris. Let’s just hope that some of the real discussions that took place at the event will spark conversations that overshadow blogposts like the one above.Recommend

  • Anon

    @AHKath & F
    Do you realise this event was blatantly sponsored by the US State Dept, which makes all the fluffy stuff your espousing put down into a really discerdible context, and which btw makes this a directly a state sponsored event 9albeit under the proxy of peace niche). The point of social media is to be vocal while being independent. How many of you do gooders would attend a media summit hosted by the ISI or the Pak Army??? Oh wait we like to laugh at the ISI secret stash and look down upon Pak Army’s dirty money.
    Seeing the way the US Consulate was jumping up and down and promoting this event and themselves on twitter, I lost a little bit of respect for every single activist who attended this event, including a certain Marxist activist who likes to sing anti imperialist songs.
    No wonder the liberals in this country are not taken seriously by the masses!!!Recommend

  • The Prodigy

    Daant maestro etc nahi aye?Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    bindi and saris are what these people wear when they want to wear their “liberalism” on their sleeves. They want to show to others (i.e., Westerners/Indians) that unlike their backward, gun-totting, terrorist loving, burka wearing, beard growing, self bombing Pakistanis; they are peaceful and open-minded people with mind-blowing cultural capital which should be noticed by their bindis and saris. So, in their world, they went on to believe that they are thinkers and intellectuals who have been persecuted in Pakistan. This included blast from the past that at the age of 8, they have been called an agent of CIA by their conspiracy loving Pakistani friends at Karachi Grammar. (Their own insults and attacks to others of course should not be mentioned.)

    Bindis and saris are now the new uniforms of our liberals. When would we see the men opting for the same kind of dress codes? And, when would we see liberals in India/West wearing burka or Muslim’s skullcap to show their tolerance toward Muslims?Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    Ahmedullah,

    How did Urdu become a “quintessential Indian language”? If it were an Indian language, it would have been Hindi and not Urdu.

    Sari when it was worn as a simple dress is fine but when it is worn as a political symbol with hidden agenda, it becomes much more than a dress. If burka were seen a political symbol, then why isn’t sari (and bindi) seen as such?Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    bindi and saris are what these people wear when they want to wear their “liberalism” on their sleeves. They want to show to others (i.e., Westerners/Indians) that unlike their backward, gun-totting, terrorist loving, burka wearing, beard growing, self bombing Pakistanis; they are peaceful and open-minded people with mind-blowing cultural capital which should be noticed by their bindis and saris. So, in their world, they went on to believe that they are thinkers and intellectuals who have been persecuted in Pakistan. This included blast from the past that at the age of 8, they have been called an agent of CIA by their conspiracy loving Pakistani friends at Karachi Grammar. (Their own insults and attacks to others of course should not be mentioned).

    Bindis and saris are now the new uniforms of our liberals. When would we see the men opting for the same kind of dress codes? And, when would we see liberals in India/West wearing burka or Muslim’s skullcap to show their tolerance toward Muslims?Recommend

  • Abhay Goel

    Highly opinionated and not much content…Recommend

  • brokenarrow

    as far as the world cup semi final in Mohali is concerned ,you are only one year late.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/#!/SamiSaayer Sami Saayer

    hahaha. funny. i had been going through the tweet sof SOCMM12 hashtags and was wondering why on earth do we care? glad you covered it this way.Recommend

  • http://andtwice.blogspot.com F.

    @Anon:
    “@AHKath & F
    Do you realise this event was blatantly sponsored by the US State Dept, which makes all the fluffy stuff your espousing put down into a really discerdible context, and which btw makes this a directly a state sponsored event 9albeit under the proxy of peace niche).”

    (O_o)
    Eh? Me? Did you not understand my comment or not bother reading it all? Because I already blogged about something quite similar to the point you raised! Recommend

  • Blank

    bindi+sari+twitter= Pakistani HipstersRecommend

  • eureka

    To people outside Pakistan,this is a very important meet.The USP is , it is not preaching hate against any group, sect or country.For this reason alone organizers should be congratulated.In recent days the common theme among all news coming out of Pakistan is hate.Someone hates someone else and the actions resulting from that hate.This jamboree/mela was like a breath of fresh air.Recommend

  • Khurram Siddiqi

    If it wasn’t for this Social Media Kitty Party- we wouldn’t have been informed on stage by Bilal Lakhani that you’ve written this lovely, deeply thoughtful and totally unbiased piece- but will make Rs 0.00 for it unless it reaches top 3.

    Thanks and have a great day living a non elite life but coughing up money for a laptop, internet connection, the petrol to get to Avari towers, and writing a sour article about your experience.

    PS- Aunties laughing loudly- is not a crime.Recommend

  • soheb

    very nice write .. am loving itRecommend

  • http://fromahazydistance.blogspot.com/ Sabbah Haji

    @Khurram Siddiqi:
    I love the Khurram. Bas. Kya Sapuri hai.Recommend

  • Awais Saeed

    Although, I havn’t attended the “Mela” but ur blog reveals its picture. Ur writing said it all. Thanks Sis!Recommend