Social media has been accused of making us more anti-social, less confident and even depressed. But while some people are using their smartphone as a shield to protect themselves from face-to-face interactions, others are using social media platforms for great causes.
Thanks to technology, we are now more connected than ever before. It is how we use that connectivity though that is important. When the potential of real-time communication is used for a good cause, the benefits can be enormous.
As social media platforms connect millions of people all over the world, they have the power to make the world a better place. Here are four examples of how social media is making us better people:
Some charities are using social media in ingenious ways, both to raise awareness of an issue and to get donations for great causes. Some brilliant examples are these campaigns, which have made a significant impact. Notably, the simple campaign idea, #nomakeupselfie which raised "over 10 million dollars for cancer research", the Thames Valley Police ‘Tea and Consent’ YouTube clip "viewed by over one million people worldwide, and it even made international news" and the social media phenomenon, ALS Icebucket Challenge, which "raised awareness of motor neuron disease and over $100 million for research."
Some social media users have found precious help in these platforms, enabling them to communicate during natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and similar emergencies. Some features developed for this purpose include Facebook's “I’m safe” check-in and Google's “Person Finder,” but retweets and news coverage on Twitter, as well as Instagram, geotags can be equally as useful.
Offering help during emergencies is a great way to use social media. More and more people are providing water, food, shelter, and comfort when something horrible and unexpected happens in their cities. A great example of this is the hashtag #SofaForLondon, which was used by Londoners just minutes after the terrorist attack on 3rd June 2017. Thanks to this initiative, hundreds of people found a safe place to stay, at least for a few hours, until they could go back to their homes or hotels from where they were evacuated.
Used in the right way, social media can even help find people and save lives. Before social media, families relied on newspapers, TV news, radio, and posters. The distribution of missing flyers was limited to the areas where the individual was last seen or lived. Now, social media amplifies the reach massively, and it can spread the world in seconds.
Police and other government agencies are using social media to share information about missing people, and the results are very positive. When a person goes missing, notifications and posters are shared on Facebook and Twitter. The information gets shared and retweeted by the police, the public and, in some instances, by famous people or influencers, spreading the word very quickly and encouraging people far and wide to be on the lookout for the missing person. In many cases, it results in reports within the first few hours, helping to guide the police to finally find the missing person.
The way people organize has changed thanks to social media. Social platforms are now being used to organize demonstrations, to reinforce their reach and to follow up with the movement using creative hashtags. In fact, "there are more demonstrations, social movements, and protests today than at any given time in history."
A great example is how the feminist movement in Spain is using social media after the verdict of the 'wolf pack' case. Hundreds of women are sharing their personal stories of male abuse using the hashtag #cuéntalo (tell it). This solidarity phenomenon has risen after a wave of demonstrations all over the country against a court's decision to clear five men of the crime of rape and film non-consensual sex with an underage girl.
Overall, using social media platforms for good causes is on the rise. From having the chance to ask for help or offer a helping hand real-time, to openly show empathy with those who need it at the most in a difficult moment. Social media's potential to help us be better people is still unimaginable.
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