Celebrate Innovation and Science: Interview with Salam Katanani

Published April 21st, 2020 - 08:00 GMT
Celebrate Innovation and Science: Interview with Salam Katanani
Courtesy Salam Katanani
Salam Katanani is an innovative social media content creator who shares scientific content in Arabic.

From the invention of the wheel to modern-day discoveries, science has proven to be the key to understanding the world around us, and curiosity has always been the driving force towards these scientific innovations. 

Salam Katanani is an innovative social media content creator who shares scientific content in Arabic; influencing the youth and urging their minds to question their surroundings. She sure does bring out the fun in scientific ‘fundamentals’ as she tackles in her videos complicated topics in a simplified enjoyable approach.

Keep on reading to know Salam’s formula in life, her stand on the social media influencers, and much more! 

1. In the social media sphere, you’re known as the Arab female Einstein who provokes the minds with intriguing questions and enlightens the minds with knowledge. But away from the books and the gram, how would you describe yourself in 3 words?   

I think it’s challenging to describe anyone with 3 words! However, if I had to, I can describe myself as a curious logician and abstract thinker.

2. Thousands of people nowadays wear the “influencer” badge proudly on the different social media platforms. Unfortunately, not all of them are entitled to this superpower. Given your unique content, would you call yourself an influencer? If so, how do you think your content is influencing people?

Frankly speaking, I rarely think of myself as an influencer.  In real life, sometimes I come off as a socially awkward introverted person who’s living in their own bubble. Even if I want to consider my online content creation journey, it is very difficult to imagine how someone you don't know could be affected by what you say or do. However, it hits me that I am actually influencing the people when I receive messages and emails from people saying how much I change their lives. I often stare at the message in disbelief, because being an influencer puts a person under a lot of social pressure since it’s a huge responsibility. But I am who I am, and my followers have accepted my personality and style. I am extremely grateful for that, and for every single person who found my content meaningful.

3. Congratulations on your new show with the MBC group! We don’t want to give our audience any spoilers here but we just have one question. Since your character in the show is somehow related to your content, did you participate in writing the show’s script or were you only involved in acting? And on the side note for our readers, this is a MUST watch!

Huna Al Ard “This Is Earth” Sitcom is my baby and  I co-created the story idea from day one! I have also contributed in writing themes and plots of the show. It was a very challenging project; to be able to integrate scientific ideas and concepts into a daily life situational comedy in the Arab world. There are also several limitations when it comes to challenging the cultural norms and mindset, even cognitively. Therefore, I am very proud of the results. People are being entertained with a light comedy show while learning something new simultaneously. 

4. We all know that in science there are no limits neither to questions nor to theories. Are there any scientific topics that you would avoid discussing online? If so, why?

I try to avoid content that may create a cognitive shock for the audience. I think that in order to make a change, the process needs to be logical, subtle and gradual. Thus, if you wish to change someone, you need to change how they think, and teach them how to be critical thinkers. Our middle eastern culture has been “isolated” for a long period of time, and that sure did have an influence on forming the very identity of the middle eastern individuals. I take these factors in mind when creating my content. 

Having said that, I need to emphasize on the fact that science is true whether a person believes in it or not. And if someone finds discussing a certain subject offensive or unacceptable, then it is their problem, not mine.

5. We all encounter bumps in the road while paving our career paths. What was the biggest bump you’ve encountered so far? And if you travel back in time, would you have done things differently to avoid such obstacles?

Looking back, my only regret is that I haven’t started creating online content earlier. I’ve spent over 12 years of my life working in Aviation, and being an auto-pilot employee is not my thing; it was mentally suffocating. I am at a place in my life now where I work in the field that I love: Science Communication which opens many doors to practice reading, researching and being exposed to the flow of knowledge we see online today.

One of the challenges I also have is that I’m a single mom, so maintaining a good home, healthy personal life and a successful career is hard. I wish my family lived closer so I can have the support I need. But still, I have made very good friends in Jordan within a short period of time.

6. Not a lot of people know that all the knowledge that you share online is the outcome of self-education, which is very impressive to be honest! What sparked the curiosity in you to start reading about such topics?

We are all born curious creatures. I’ve always been curious about systems, theories and the mechanism of the world. I used to also refuge to science to take a break from my personal struggles and challenges, and books have become my best friend since then. Also, not being able to go to university has somehow traumatized me in a way that pushed me to read and explore more. Even though my knowledge of sciences might be theoretical, it has changed me so much throughout the years, and has affected me on a personal evolutionary level.

7. With the full lockdown we’re living now, we’re starting to experience the true meaning of “time is relative”?. Now that we somehow have more time in our hands, would you focus on new ideas that were once put on hold?

Although the lockdown gave us more free time, it has affected most of us deeply. We tend to feel that life is obligated to make sense to us, and it has to go the way we want. So the first month of quarantine had people shocked and kind of depressed. 

However, I have now got back on my feet again and almost back to my daily productive routine. But what I want to emphasize on is that you don’t have to stress about what you’re going to do with all this free time. Think of it as a great time to relax, sit back, reflect, and try to contemplate how you can work on your life to make it better.

8. If there was a parallel world to ours, what would be Salam doing there?

If there are parallel universes, then the possibilities are endless! But I hope all my other versions -if they exist- are being easy on themselves, and making the best out of the very short life they have.

9. Not a lot of people are blessed enough to have the opportunity to focus on their passions. Usually, time and/or money would be their obstacle(s). How did you manage to align these two factors with your passion?

Statistically speaking, the odds of working in the field I love might be rare, but I see a lot of biases around me when it comes to success, life, and passions. Humans are talking and thinking chemical machines. So our wants and needs change all the time. There might be a time where I stop enjoying what I do, especially as an introvert in the big media world! And that's totally OK. That’s when I know I need a change, again. The thing is, as you grow and evolve, what you want also changes; life long dreams and passions are overrated, don't focus on that. You don't have to have big dreams, you just have to live day by day with a credible amount of satisfaction.

10. Last but not least, in your opinion, how do you think social media and its icons can help in containing the COVID-19?

Containing COVID-19 is being done by science; our scientific revolution as humans has been the best thing that happened to us. If there is no vaccine, there is no real solution.

The only thing we influencers can do is to stop rumors and fake news and to encourage the audience to read, think and stick to what science says about this. 

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