Social Media is often spoken of as a frivolity. Beyond its ability to get to breaking news first, it’s more often than not associated with narcissistic updates about what we’re eating, where we’re going, or other things that might be of interest to no one else but ourselves. However, it only takes a little bit of digging under the surface, or going out beyond the confines of our friends and online circles, to realize that social media can actually make the world a better place, lead social revolutions, and even help us in our day-to-day activities, improving productivity
Social media can have positive impact on society just as much as it can have a negative impact, but there are also tangible examples of how people have used social networking to change the world. Whether it’s helping raise money for a charity, raising awareness for a good cause, or even going to the extent of saving lives, there are some remarkable social media stories that are worth taking note of. These will help you realize just how much Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and other online social media and communication tools can really do.
It’s A Fundraising Tool
While Twitter can be a great way to promote a fundraising campaign and get your followers involved in donating money, there are other ways the social network has been used to raise money for a good cause.
A couple of years ago in Egypt, a group of prominent tweeters decided to hold the first Middle-East-based fundraiser that went beyond just putting out a call on Twitter for donations. The ‘Tweetback,‘ as it was called, was quite straightforward, but managed to raise $200,000 in the span of one week.
So how did it work? The organizers brought together a group of prominent Egyptian tweeters with a significant following, and had them tweet about the fundraising event before and during the drive. They offered major companies, such as Coca Cola, the chance to get a little bit of positive PR from tweeters with at least 15,000 followers each, while some having as many as 1 million. In addition to tweeting about the money raised from these companies, the Twitterati involved also tweeted about the cause they were raising the money for — an impoverished area of Cairo in need of money to build schools, basic infrastructure and more.
want to get a visual of #gezireteldahab. this is the nursery we’re refurbishing, it takes 25 kids, there’s no play area pic.twitter.com/MCvbajFc
— tweetbackegypt (@tweetbackegypt) November 1, 2011
It Can Save Lives
Social media can be used as a tool to save lives by using it to find organ donors or finding a blood type match for a transfusion. One success story has Facebook being used to match a kidney donor with a patient.
There are other ways social media has been used to save lives that goes beyond the medical world. Last year, Twitter was used to save a South African man who was kidnapped and trapped in the trunk of his car. He still had his cell phone with him (which we’re assuming didn’t have Twitter on it) and he texted his girlfriend to let her know what had happened.
She proceeded to tweet about it, and her tweet was seen by a private security professional who managed to locate the car and rescue the man.
Be on the look for DSS041GP my boyufriend has just been hijacked and is in the boot please RT
— Lynn Peters (@onebadvillynn) April 7, 2012
It Makes the World Smaller
Social media is a great way to make the world so much smaller when it comes to raising awareness for a good cause. If there’s one thing social media does, it’s to help information travel, and travel fast. If there’s any one initiative that proved just how fast information can travel, and how quickly it can catch on, it was Invisible Children’s Stop Kony campaign, with its YouTube video gaining almost 50 million views in less than a week.
The campaign aimed to bring awareness on the topic of a Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. It drew a lot of criticism for, among many other things, simplifying an extremely complex situation. The Stop Kony campaign is a perfect example of how powerful a social media tool can be for raising awareness, but it is also a cautionary tale on how to actually use the tool. It’s an example of how you need to be sure that the people you’re raising awareness for actually approve of your campaign.
It Puts Pressure on Governments
Social media can be used to place pressure on governments. Much has been said about the so-called ‘Facebook Revolutions’ of the Middle East. While that characterization gives social media far too much credit in what was a swelling ground movement involving thousands of people who don’t have Internet access, let alone a Twitter account, there is something to be said for the use of social media in the circles of governance.
In Egypt, Facebook and Twitter were used as a means of rallying, among those who were on the social network. Within a small group of activists, Twitter and Facebook were used as a means of warning each other as to where security forces were closing down streets, or closing in on protests.
It Brings People Together
Disasters can often bring out the good in people, and social media can help magnify that. Hurricane Sandy, which sparked 20 million tweets, is said to have marked a shift in social media use in disasters. The hurricane left over 1 million New Yorkers without electricity, and some of them used Twitter to share emergency information with each other. Whether it was transportation updates, open gas stations, or more, there was a coming together of people on the social network.
Hurricane Sandy together with Twitter showed just how much potential there is for people to come together using one of the simplest online tools out there.
Can you think of any other ways social media can be used to make the world a better place? Let us know in the comments.
Image credit: Alexander Kesselaar