I’ll be the first to say how draining social media can be. FOMO—the acronym created for Facebook: the Fear of Missing Out—is a real thing and one that slaughters productivity and positivity. We overshare or over-exaggerate as it often brings out the worst of us. And let’s not even talk about the quells that we’re compelled to do when someone doesn’t agree with us, which we then of course overshare again with a post of the Big Delete. And then we could talk about how terrorist groups are using social media as a way to recruit. But the other side of that terrible coin is that social media brings us together. There’s certainly no spot more democratic or faster newsource than Twitter. And social media certainly makes the famous yearbook acronym KIT (keep in touch) obsolete since we never fully lose track of anyone unless at least one side wants to.
Like all addictions, social media surely has its ups and downs. But I would argue today that, when it really matters, when something really important happens, social media can make all the difference. In fact social media can be moving, beautiful, and amazing. Today we look at some of the times when social media mattered.
The Hashtag: The most powerful punctuation
A couple weeks ago I was at Dockercon here in Barcelona and the one call to action the CEO asked at the beginning of the two-day conference was to clarify #Dockercon, which by Day Two had become the second most popular hashtag worldwide—the power of a few thousand code monkeys! As a marketeer and journalist, it’s essential for any event that first and foremost you post your hashtag and shout it loud from everywhere. But that’s not impressive. #PorteOuverte was impressive.
“It took me two seconds to tweet, and after that, for hours and hours, people gave their trust and their time.” These are the words of French journalist Sylvain Lapoix, the original tweeter of the Open Door Hashtag, trying to downplay his 13-character part in thousands of Parisians offering open doors of refuge in a moment of terror.
And sarcastic hashtags have their values too! I certainly love how Hacktivists Anonymous are reviving #RickRolling and Rick Astley’s biggest hit to block any Islamic State recruitment hashtags and how when the Belgian police wanted people to stop tweeting location of raids, the world started flooding #BrusselsLockdown with kittens.
Social media is the best way to communicate
Like the Brussels police, sometimes we need to communicate effectively and quickly. It’s no longer the excruciating alarm and the rainbow stripes interrupting our regularly scheduled programming, it’s a text or a tweet or a hashtag. We know important information faster than ever before.
Just a couple years in the world of social media equals a lifetime in emergency management. Back when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, TheFacebook.com was only available to universities and Twitter didn’t even exist. When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey seven years later, there was no doubt most everyone had smartphones and, while the Northern state is certainly wealthier, social media played a huge part of how people were better prepared for Sandy. Sandy saw less than one-tenth the displaced people and about a fifth of the deaths that Katrina had.
This is going to be a long haul. This is not a time to be stupid. This is a time to save yourself and your family. #Sandy — Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 29, 2012
It’s not just about warning people, it’s about helping find and care for people after the fact. Social Media for Good’s Timo Luege has written about how significant it is to train emergency responders on how to utilize social media and its location features to do things like track the Ebola virus.
And certainly Facebook’s new Safety Check feature is a simple way to give us all peace of mind when disaster strikes.
Social media for good can only reflect the goodness of humanity
Like the humans posting on it, social media can really let you down and it can really lift you up. And as long as when these important events happen, and as long as we continue to reach out, I think social media is a good thing because humanity is still a good thing.
What about you? What examples of beauty and kindness have you seen in social media this year?