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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Social Media: Social Good or a Waste of TIme?

Since day one I've believed that social media is whatever you make of it. For instance, if you want to use it to enrich your personal or professional life it will. If you want to use it as a fun and entertaining distraction it can be that too. If you want to share too much personal information about yourself online that's your choice. My point is, you decide how sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, Pinterest, Linked In, and blogs will occupy the time you give them. I use social media to make me laugh, keep me in contact with friends and loved ones, to learn new things and to use the internet to help make the world a better place.

Below are some examples of social media websites creating positive change:

Have you seen the stories about how more and more people are finding living organ donors through social media? Need a Kidney? More Are Turning to Facebook. Can you even imagine that? You post on your Facebook page that someone you love needs a kidney and a friend or a friend of a friend who is a complete stranger to you offers one of theirs, they're a match, and they donate a kidney to your loved one. That's an amazing thing.

So don't discount the positive possibilities Facebook can create even if everyone you know just uses it to play games like Farmville :)

Kony 2012 is a video and international campaign featuring Jason Russell, a member of Invisible Children. The group is bringing to light the atrocities committed against children and adults by Joseph Kony, head of the Lord's Resistance Army in Africa. Two days ago a social media campaign was launched to bring unwanted fame to Kony to aid in his capture for the war crimes he's committed in Uganda and neighboring African countries for the past 26 years.

Oddly, one of the scenes that resonated with me most wasn't the footage from Africa. It was when the filmmaker showed his young son pictures of Kony and Jacob, a young boy who was abducted and forced to serve in the LRA. Jason tells Gavin how nice children are kidnapped and forced to kill even though they don't want to. It was a lesson in good vs. evil. Watching Gavin process this information, was both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. His empathy was apparent as he proclaimed the realization "sad." I couldn't help but feel his ability to understand such a brutal truth stripped away his innocence even as it was probably helping to form and set his own moral compass. He is a cutie pie and obviously proud of his dad.

Kony is in the two pictures on the left, Jacob in the three on the right.

The video "Kony 2012" is going viral raising awareness and some controversy worldwide on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media. Invisible Children has posted a very friendly and thorough response to individuals and groups who question their intentions, financials and whether or not donated money to Invisible Children goes to the Ugandan Army. They assure us it doesn't.

I always like to use my social media accounts to do good so I joined in.

They are very clear that the goal of Invisible Children is to make it so that Kony's victims are no longer invisible and he himself can no longer hide in the shadows. It's time for him to stand trial for the war crimes he was charged with in 2005 by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands. He's already been indicted. Now he needs to be found.

And just last week Robert, a Bay Area man, reached out for help via Youtube the day before his 24th birthday because he simply didn't know what else to do. He knows without intervention he will die and was willing to risk ridicule for a chance at a healthier life. In less than a day he was contacted by the Dr. Phil show (someone he said he wanted help from) and received hundreds of supportive messages from all around the world. All because of Youtube.

I also have many friends on Facebook who help dogs in shelters find new homes or, at the very least, make it into a rescue so they aren't put to sleep.

That social media websites are used to bring us together to help people, animals and even the environment in profound ways is becoming more mainstream. I'd anticipate over the coming years we'll see more and more people being helped through sites like Facebook and Twitter. So, even though the internet can bring out the worst in some people, every day it continues to amaze me by how it also brings out the best in others.

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