True or false: “Social media is so much more than Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.”
True. In my first blog post of the semester, What If We Actually Lived Our Lives: Reassessing How We Use Social Media, I guessed true as well. However, I didn’t know to what extent. In the post, I outlined what I considered positive and negative effects of what I understood as social media at the time. Inspired by the wide response of the Youtube video, I Forgot My Phone, I speculated that while social media has greatly enhanced our capability to communicate and connect, it has detracted from some of the most personal and traditionally intimate experiences of life. Even with this speculation, I concluded: “social media can actually help us live our lives if we use it smartly.” I had the what, where, when, but I didn’t know how.
How Can Social Media Help Us Live Our Lives?
Social media and technology has forever changed the way we live our lives. It’s pretty apparent, but how can it help us live our lives? Throughout the semester, I have learned that social media is SO much more than what we ordinarily think of when we picture social media: friend request accepted, twitter user followed, and a quick double tap on Instagram. Sure, any savvy user of technology or owner of a smart phone can tell you that you can use social media to promote, publicize, and connect. But did you know that social media can help you and others live? There are more positive uses for social media than I initially thought:
1. Promotion of Philanthropic Causes
Nonprofit organizations aren’t the only ones that are working to advance social causes. Corporate companies with philanthropic consciences are now using social media to not only make a profit, but also to promote social causes. Social media helps them do this. For example, companies such asWarby Parker and Toms are using the buy one, give one strategy: for every one product bought, one product is given to someone in need. Through social media, and applications such as Twitter, philanthropic brands have gained traction, visibility, and notability. Platforms such as Prizeo have made it possible for celebrities to fundraise funds for their favorite charity. Shares, likes, and quality content campaigns have helped businesses market not only their product, but also aid others in need.
Tumblr, Pinterest, Buzzfeed: while some may call these “time-wasters,” I strongly believe that the time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time. Sure, on the Internet there are websites and pages for virtually anything. Some people use social media in a way that doesn’t really add a lot to how we collectively live our lives. However there are also people out there that are using those “everyday” social media outlets to inspire. Whether it’s a Pinboard, or a personal blog, people are constantly being inspired to be healthier, more creative, passionate, and happier. Social media is helping people organize and prioritize what they really want in life. Web 2.0 has made inspiration available on demand.
3. Building Community
Of course some communities on social media, such as the “Pro-Ana” and “Thinspo” community, have the potential to be harmful to personal growth. However, there are also communities that provide people with a forum to either promote a cause, collaborate, or cope. For example, social media and impressive organizations such as To Write Love On Her Arms has made it possible for teens struggling with depression to come together to support one another. Social media has made it so that you’re never alone. TWLOHA is just one of many organizations that are building communities of people around a common cause to help and advance society. Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said that every human has a basic need to belong: social media has made this need of belonging attainable for everyone.
4. Pursuing a Passion
Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.
Social media has made it possible to create yourself, and if you’re lucky, get discovered. Even Justin Bieber started off as a Youtube sensation! Through blogging and vlogging, people have made careers out of social media. Just take Brandon Stanton: the creator of inspiring blog Humans of New York.
One of my friends from high school just became “insta-famous.” Through social outlets such as Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, photographer/model/and now “insta-famer,” Sean O’Donnell, has recently launched his career. Through social media, he was able to gain a fan following and pursue a dream. Most recently he was featured in the No H8 campaign:
Social applications such as Twitter have facilitated and enabled a phenomenon fondly known as crowd sourcing. From knowing when and where to get the best deals on Black Friday, to gaining vital information in a natural disaster or national emergency, social media has proven to be very informative. For example, this past year, Twitter launched Twitter Alerts: “a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible” (Twitter Blog). By simply aggregating the enormous amounts of information that users of social media contribute, social media is arguably making our world safer and more informed.
Using The Power of Social Media for good, not evil.
Along with promoting social causes, building community, allowing people to pursue passions, and being informative, social media can help us make money, learn, locate, communicate, and above all, market ourselves and what we are most passionate about. It is clear that social media has gained significant power in the past few years. The scary thing is, this power rests in the public’s hands. It sounds cliché, but we must use this power for good, and not evil.
The point of the video I Forgot My Phone, is to encourage people to actually smell the roses and take in the view once in a while instead of agonizing over which Instagram filter to pick. I stand by my initial thoughts on this video: it’s a valid point and an obvious concern as social media and web 2.0 continues to grow in popularity and technical capability. However, what I didn’t realize when I wrote my first blog post back in September, is that is that social media has more of a function than just a personal way to entertain or connect. There’s an app for everything: it’s true. However, it is extremely important to realize that social media is not only usable: it’s versatile.