Finding the ‘good’ in social media

It’s a frantic phone call from a good friend, Trudy.
‘Can you help me with my Facebook Profile? I have three accounts, and since purchasing my new phone, I can only access one. It only has one friend! I would like to be able to receive my birthday wishes on the correct account and delete the rest’.
It would be easy to toss the request aside as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Birthdays are special, and a positive, celebratory online message makes for an even better face-to-face conversation. The power of social media helps us to connect with those who are emotionally close when distance and circumstance keep us apart. It lessens the negative impact of distance and isolation.
Social media is a hardy vine, growing with our personal and professional lives, bringing opportunities as well as challenges.
News footage of atrocities shot on mobile phones is now routine, with individuals and media outlets publishing raw, graphic material via television, websites and social media. There is a steady bleed of real-time negative news (if we choose to consume it). On the flip side, social media provides us with the personal touch of celebrating a birthday with a distant friend and gives organisations the opportunity to authentically author their stories to inform and build community.
Among the torrent of information hitting our mobile devices, it is important to remember social media is a communication tool built on the binary code of 0s and 1s.
People and organisations will repurpose social media for their intent – news (real and fake), terror, sex, politics, learning, advertising, money, love and much more. Since their inception, people and organisations have done the same in repurposing newspapers, magazines, radio, television, websites and email. There is positive and negative use in all, and we did not bin the tools because of the content in them.
When we talk about the use of social media, we have a choice to make.
Do we focus solely on the negatives of social media or do we acknowledge those negatives and also consider the benefits social media can bring to our lives?
It is now time for balance because social media can do positive, powerful things for people.
As individual users, social media has many benefits. Research from Social Media Use and Social Connectedness in Adolescents (2014 http://bit.ly/2rJGVFE) found ‘evidence for the life-changing capacity of interacting on social networking includes the mobilisation of rallies, boycotts and protests, the establishment and maintenance of romantic relationships, and the real-time prevention of potential acts of suicide’.
This evidence differs from the steady stream of negative headlines we are fed about social media in the grab for an audience.
Organisations also benefit from adopting social media.
Schools are an excellent example where social media is put to use for social good. Many use social media as a tool to celebrate. It gives schools the ability to build pride in individual and group achievements of their students and teachers. In focusing on results, an audience looks beyond racial background and socio-economic status. Language is no longer a barrier as many social media tools let you read and write in your first language. This feature reduces fear and binds a community together online providing positive input for face-to-face conversations.
Local government provides communities with services, facilities, events and programs in arts, culture, environment, economic development and more. Their charter is to encourage the growth, care and pride of people in their community. Social media is a perfect fit to reach, inform and hear from the diverse interests of the community they serve. Like schools, social media enables local government to celebrate individual and group achievements. It can also advertise marquee events, adopt a greater level of transparency about its role, serve diverse community interests, seek ideas and validate its purpose.
So when you next consume or create content via social media consider what is at the end of each interaction – multiple screens connecting fingers, hearts, minds and emotions. Remember to wield your words for good.
‘Happy birthday Trudy, I hope the online celebrations were as good as the face-to-face ones’.

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