Podcasts initially rose to popularity in the year 2004.They’re a relatively new digital phenomena of programming and have gained traction in several parts of the world over the past decade. One can arguably claim that while podcasts are highly popular in the West, they haven’t attracted the same share of audiences in our part of the world. I, for one, started listening to podcasts intermittently in 2017.
However, the majority of the content I listened to was developed and produced in the US. I ignorantly assumed that no quality content was being produced in our part of the world. Even more so, I wasn’t sure that I could find content targeting millennials. All of my concerns were dispelled upon discovering Mshari Al Onaizy’s precocious podcast ‘Millennial Mirrors”.
Mshari, 33, has a background in Marketing and began his career in Abyat Megastore in its earlier days as a start-up. We joked about him being the 4th employee there, and he recollected to me his passion for start-ups and building something from the ground up. He obtained his Masters in Entrepreneurship from the UK shortly after. Mshari owns a leadership development consultancy and also works as a personal and professional development coach. When I commented on how hectic his work schedule must be, he laughed and exclaimed “to say the least!”
“The inspiration for this podcast was a conversation I was having with a woman I know. She’s 25, she’s very driven and she has her own company and she’s super smart. She told me she was feeling guilty because she wasn’t married yet and she wasn’t interested in getting married because she wanted to focus on her career. She said there’s an expectation for her to get married. She was feeling guilty over an expectation that was given to her without her agreement. I don’t mind whether she decided to get married or not but the feeling of guilt that she was carrying was unnecessary. I wanted to have these difficult and powerful conversations, in order to encourage other people to do the same. That was the inspiration.”
I sensed early on that Mshari wants to rattle cages and instigate a nation-wide conversation on issues that affected millennials who feel unempowered to speak up. I found myself wondering if there were topics he shied away from? Or was he constantly looking to push the envelope?
“There are certain topics that I did not touch upon in season one. There’s a lot more pushing that I can do. I’m still learning the ropes.” Season one of “Millennial Mirrors” consisted of 10 episodes ranging from 30-50 minutes in duration. Each episode covers an increasingly relevant societal issue featuring a distinct guest who can comment on said issue. Issues covered include mental health, social conventions (what is allowed and what isn’t based on outdated societal constructs) and the impact of social media. Mshari is currently developing content for an upcoming season which covers a variety of new topics not yet explored such as gender.
“Gender expectations in the region are crazy, these are definitely things I want to touch upon in season two. We’re taught at a young age, as men, to shut down our emotions. In terms of gender, women carry a different weight so much heavier than a man in our culture.”
In today’s era of globalization, I contemplated the universality of Mshari’s message. The subjects he touches upon certainly affect millennials all over the world.
“Our generation are constantly connected and constantly looking at people living life the way they want, and they feel trapped. I want to hold up a mirror in every episode, and you take a look. If you like what you see, great. If you don’t like what you see, then maybe it’s time for you to ask questions. Different episodes resonate with different people and that’s because different people are dealing with different things.”
What about the facades and false images that people perpetuate through social media? “I felt there was a huge conflict there, there is a big issue with how people see social media. You’re looking at a very curated moment and you’re projecting that person’s whole life experience in a photo and you’re not seeing what happens in between. It’s important for people to check themselves and how they’re reacting to social media. There’s always going to be someone who’s on vacation while you’re in the office hating your job. It’s a matter of checking your perspective and a lot of people can easily get lost in the feed.”
I wanted to know Mshari’s insights on the value of millennials in the workforce. Were there enough opportunities that catered to their skillset?
“I think there’s two things, generally our generation tends to have a lot more variation in our interests. We tend to find a lot more multihyphenated individuals. Here specifically, you are driven into a specific lane based on society and expectations and what your options are, and you find there’s no passion for you there. So, you have to go find something that feeds you, otherwise how are you going to get through your day job? We don’t have a private sector that is developed enough to nurture. Our generation wants to feel actualized.”
Mshari and I spoke at length on the future of his podcast. He made it clear to me, time and time again, that he wasn’t doing this to point out anybody’s flaws or say what is right or wrong in our society. Mshari simply wanted to offer a platform in which difficult yet profound conversations are conducted so people can feel free to realize any underlying issues that they’ve been otherwise forced to repress.
To learn more about Mshari’s work, visit @msharialonaizy on Instagram
To listen to Mshari’s podcast “Millennial Mirrors”, visit www.msharialonaizy.com/podcast
Nourah Al-Oseimi is a 25-year-old Kuwaiti who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing writer to the Times Kuwait – Newsmagazine. Her column – Essentially Kuwaiti – will feature an in-depth look on exceptional young Kuwaitis and their efforts towards the realization of a New Kuwait.