When the idea of Soliya was first brought up during class before we initially started it, I was interested yet still a bit skeptical on how it was really going to turn out. The idea of video chatting, and discussing topics, on the same platform with a diverse range of strangers made me a bit nervous. I was worried that we might have extremely different views than one another and wouldn’t be able to respect the different opinions. Yet, this was not the case in my experience.
Soliya’s program was much different than my usual interactions with people globally, as this was an online video chat with multiple people, including a facilitator. Usually, most of my interactions with people worldwide are usually through the typical social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Yet, the interactions I had with the others in my group felt more personal in this case than it usually is for me on social media. This was because I was able to see their faces and hear their voices which made me think of them as more of humans than just a piece of text online. I got to realise their general personalities based off of their reactions and body language throughout the sessions. I thought this was very important because it helped us all create general boundaries during our discussions in order to not offend anyone.
To my surprise, I ended up really participating and expressing my point of views on the topics that we all discussed. This was something new for me, as I usually think of myself as a media consumer. I usually take in all the information being said in my surroundings and usually process and analyse on my own, but that was different during Soliya. During Soliya, I felt as if I was a content producer/sharer. Although that’s not what it had been exactly, I felt as if I added different insights into the conversations that weren’t said and shared different ideas that I had previously learned elsewhere.
Yet, sadly I felt as if the conversations that my group and I had with each other seemed forced. It was noticeable that most of the people that were present and participating were just doing so for the sake of a class. No one seemed genuinely interested in the idea of exchanging ideas, and I felt that really effected the mood and experience of the whole Soliya program for me. There happened to be a lot of awkward silences throughout our discussions and I felt as if people just agreed with one another as an easy way to participate. You could sense that no one was really interested on exchanging their ideas and broadening their knowledge on others’ ideologies elsewhere. But luckily, we had a really great facilitator who was able to handle these situations and awkward silences with follow-up questions on things we discussed.
Overall, I had an average experience with the Soliya program. I really liked the idea of it but everyones mindsets going into the program is what I think had the largest impact on my experience. I feel as if passion is one of the main keys in order for a true discussion to take place, especially online, as it encourages people to spread their opinions and insights on their beliefs. In my case, this did not necessarily happen since everyones participation felt forced so I didn’t feel as if I gained much out of the discussions. Yet, it definitely showed me a different side to myself that I never saw which I found really interesting!