As evidenced by everyone’s initial thoughts on social media, there is a spectrum of uses and opinions on the value of social media. Many people discuss the impact of cyber bullying, depression from constantly comparing yourself to others, and lack of connecting offline with people. The benefits of social media are often overlooked, it’s about time we give a little love and shed some light on how social media has brought people together to literally save lives.
Broad Reach of Social Media
The “one to many” aspect of social media (internet, facebook, blogs, etc.) allows you to easily reach a large audience. This is especially beneficial for fundraising and the ability to reach a broad and immense group with much less effort. I fundraised (twice) for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and I was shocked how easy it was to post my facebook status with links to my donation. People I hadn’t spoken to in decades donated to my walking team. I’ve also been on the receiving end of blind copied fundraising request emails sent to only god knows how many people. Social media allows you to “cast a wide net” and fundraise without having to personally ask each person. Sometimes it feels like cheating or the easy way out but in my mind charity fundraising has the right to be a little shameless!
Go Fund Me: Peer Pressure & Leaps of Faith
While Go Fund Me isn’t exclusive to charities and righteous causes as evidenced by “Help James Record His Next Album” fundraising, it is the world’s #1 fundraising site. By capitalizing on social media, it is able to execute “crowdfunding”. Countless people have been able to raise money for medical bills, living expenses while undergoing treatment, and final family vacations for the terminally ill. You can look at various success stories here.
So why does Go Fund Me work? The cynic in me thinks about all the fraud that must be going on. Do people really believe all the stories floating around on the internet? Absolutely not! Well, at least I hope not… A major draw of crowdfunding is the friend referrals. If someone has trustworthy friends sending links or posting about their cousins/friends/boyfriends’s family then people are likely to believe the fundraising story.
Another key success factor is peer pressure. Go Fund Me includes a feed with recent donations and donor names. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I scanned down to see how much my friends had given to see what about is appropriate for the cause. It’s a form of peer pressure to give and to give a certain amount. Just like social media, peer pressure doesn’t always have to have a negative connotation.
Benefits of Gamification
Anytime something can be turned into a game it increases support exponentially. How could anyone forget the 2014 summer of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Something that started at BC turned into a viral social media fundraising event. By passing on the challenge of dumping a bucket of ice over your head, a disease that was often only referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and raised over $220M. It created a network that everyone was excited to be a part of including celebrities and professional athletes. Not only did it build a network but also it was entertaining to watch your friends dump a bucket of water over your head. Every “drop in the bucket” truly made a difference. As a result of the money raised from Ice Bucket Challenge, researchers were able to identify a new ALS gene to target for future treatment.
This section is a bit more of a stretch. Does blogging save lives? No. Does blogging raise awareness and help people understand the struggles that people are living through? Yes. Can this increased awareness translate into fundraising and lobbying for benefits? Yes.
I personally follow one blog that falls into this category. I’m fortunate enough to share my birthday with the blogger of Lung Story Short. Rima highlights her journey to a double lung transplant. It shares what her daily life with cystic fibrosis is really like. Take a read, but spoiler alert: she’s a much better blogger than I am. If you have free time on your hands, check out the instagram and twitter handle too.
“With great power comes great responsibility”. Social media has to power to instantly connect one person to hundreds/thousands/millions of people. We can choose to use this power for evil or for good. Raising awareness, capital, and support for those in need literally has the capability to save lives. If you can’t afford to donate money then you should at least think about sharing a donation link or a story. Passing the word around can get the story into the right hands to help. Be shameless, use your network to save lives.