Celebrating the Positive Side of Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

It’s not uncommon to get sucked into the vortex of Twitter and Facebook feeds, Instagram snaps and Pinterest boards and find yourself unhappy with everything from your hairstyle and gym habits to your throw pillows and non-Bento boxed school lunches.

Social media gets a bad rap and we like to blame it for society’s ills. There are those who abuse the platform – examples of online bullying, trolling, and body shaming are frequently in the news – but there’s even more examples of social media being used for good.

Back in 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge was all over social media. Everyone from Oprah and Bill Gates to people like me took part and as a result over $100 million dollars was raised for research into ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. But the story doesn’t end there. Just this year the ALS association announced a breakthrough made possible by the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge: the discovery of a gene partly responsible for the disease.

That’s far from the only example. Photographer James Rudland created the Sleeping Bag Appeal and collected hundreds of sleeping bags for homeless people in a matter of days. Movember, created by two Australian friends and used as a vehicle to raise money for prostate cancer, has generated donations of over $556 million, with funding going to 832 men’s health programs internationally.

Social media is a powerful means of communication when tragedy or natural disasters occur. Facebook has added Safety Check to its platform so users can instantly let friends and family know they’re safe; and first responders, governments, Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations frequently utilize social media to keep us up-to-date and informed during disasters.

Social media is indispensable when news stories like the Paris bombings or Louisiana floods occur. Always, always, always be careful of charitable links set up through social media, as there are those that use tragedy as a means to personal gain, but organizations like the Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund use their Facebook pages to link families and those in need to critical resources.

Sites like Facebook and Instagram are invaluable to families and individuals going through difficult times. They provide the opportunity to share the burden and allow friends and family to show support and offer hope. With his wife Joey’s encouragement, Rory Feek blogged about their journey as Joey battled cancer. Their story was both heartbreaking and inspirational, giving hope and encouragement to others facing similar struggles.

The impact of social media is undeniable. The power is unquestionable. The key is to use that power for positive change on both a local and global level.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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