SXSW Panel Picker Voting

The science couldn’t be clearer: happiness is a hike with a friend. Or a cookout with family. So why are we isolating ourselves more than ever, putting our happiness at stake while failing to lift up our lonely neighbors? Well, we’re busy. And while innovation has enabled virtual connections, these high-tech encounters have become addictive substitutes for real-world get-togethers.

We’ve put together a top-notch panel of diverse experts to explore this weighty topic for SXSW in March of 2018. But before we’re selected, we need your vote to earn selection via SXSW’s PanelPicker:

Vote Now

Here is a snapshot of our speakers:

Billy Baker, Award-Winning Boston Globe Journalist

Billy Baker

A feature writer for the Boston Globe’s Metro section, and a member of the Narrative team, Billy Baker was recently awarded the Deborah Howell Award for Writing Excellence. A graduate of Tulane University, and the Columbia Journalism School, Billy has been writing for the Globe for 7+ years. One of his stories made him a viral sensation: "The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness." He began by studying it as an outsider, and soon discovered he was right in the wheelhouse of the research and premise. This spawned a deluge of positive feedback, massive page views and follow-up coverage.

Read Billy’s story

Amy Blankson, Author, Speaker & Consultant

Amy Blankson

Amy Blankson has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. “Knowing that technology is here to stay and will continue to evolve in form and function, we need to know how to navigate the future to achieve a better balance between technology, productivity, and wellbeing,” she wrote in a recent blog. Amy is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era. Amy received her BA from Harvard and MBA from Yale School of Management. Most recently, she was a featured professor in Oprah’s Happiness course. Amy is the author of two books: The Future of Happiness and an award-winning children’s book called Ripple’s Effect.

Read Amy’s Happy Tech blog

Anika Kumar, Teen Entrepreneur

Anika Kumar

A 17-year-old incoming college freshman, Anika Kumar is not only reaching across generations to combat loneliness, but she’s inspiring her peers to do the same. “I am incredibly passionate about social justice, specifically surrounding the older adult population,” Anika said. “After volunteering at an assisted living facility in my sophomore year of high school, I became aware of the rampant ageism and social isolation that exists today and causes many older adults to feel unhappy and neglected.” Anika channeled her passion to launch Forget Me Not, an intergenerational nonprofit organization that aims to reduce feelings of loneliness among older adults by partnering them with teens in a companionship phone call program. “The most notable thing about the program is that it is mutually rewarding and lifts the spirits of both the elder participants and teen volunteers each week.” Anika was the valedictorian of her high school class and will attend UC Berkeley, and hopes to continue her work with older adults as a medical scientist.

Read more about Anika’s work with Forget Me Not.

Shawn Boyer, Entrepreneur & Small Business Person of the Year

Shawn Boyer

Shawn Boyer is the Founder and CEO of goHappy, the social media platform that helps you actually be social. “The impetus for starting goHappy was to help people become more intentional about their most important relationships, as I know both in my own life and from the extensive research available, most of us aren’t nearly as intentional about our relationships as we are with our work,” Shawn said. “Yet, our happiness level is so directly connected to the quality of our relationships. It is so exciting to me that through our work, we could possibly help people strengthen those crucial relationships and thereby positively impact their happiness level.” Shawn founded and was CEO of Snagajob, the nation’s largest marketplace, from 2000-2013, and then Chairman of the Board through 2015. Shawn directed Snagajob’s growth from an idea to a marketplace with over 75 million members and 400,000 employers. Snagajob has been named to Fortune Magazine’s Great Place to Work® Best Small & Medium Workplaces list 8 straight years, including the #1 ranking in 2011. In 2008, he was named the National Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration and received public recognition from President George W. Bush. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the Washington & Lee School of Law, and received his LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown Law Center.

Learn more about Shawn’s outfit, goHappy.

We’re excited at the prospect of bringing this dynamic panel to SXSW. But we need your help. If you could take a moment to vote up “Not Only the Lonely: How We All Can Be Happier,” it would make our day. And follow along on Facebook and Twitter as we pump up folks for this panel designed to put a smile on everyone’s face.