In defence of social media: Yes, I do believe it can be a place for positivity and change

posted on: Monday, 25 February 2019

A few weeks ago, the brilliant minds over at BBC put together an "expose" on social media stars. They focused mainly on reality tv show celebs and z-list actors who all provided perfect sound bites for a piece that had one goal and one goal only - to showcase the menacing side of social media. As you could well imagine, this led to a bit of an explosion on all sides. People who do this for a living were upset because they felt they'd been thrown under the bus, with not all parties being represented. The general public were upset because they felt they were seeing the real underbelly of people they trusted on social. And of course the companies sponsoring all the social media stars were none too happy because they were represented as big bosses looking to "fool" the general public. Let's just say no one came out of this experience feeling good. But, it did make me think a lot about my own feelings concerning the world of social media and it stirred up a surprising result. I found myself defending, rather staunchly, the way in which social media can be used for good, for change, for helping the world in general. After throwing a few things at my TV, tweeting a few choice words at the BBC and making more than a few phone calls to other friends who spend most of their time working for good on social media, I sat down at my desk and I started to write notes. 

For half an hour, I had watched and listened to nothing but negative thoughts and statements about influencers and social platforms and the way in which the future of social media is more or less the end of society as we know it. So, I took out a pad and a paper and I made a list of all the positive experiences I could remember having over the past ten years. The list was lengthy, very lengthy. In fact, by the time I was done jotting in my journal, I had over four pages of notes. I was doing this to make a point to myself that I still believed in the medium I had chosen to work in. Had I sat down and drawn a blank on positives of social media, I swear to you now, I would have shut down FFG in that moment. If it isn't doing something to make this world a better place, it isn't worth doing, in my opinion.

I wanted to share a few highlights from my list. Don't worry, I won't subject you to the whole thing as there were a few ridiculous mentions on there. Instead, I'll round up, into a few categories, the main thrust of the exercise. So, here's the highlight reel of the positive things I've been a part of on social media over the past ten years:

1. Thanks to social media, I've been made aware of countless people in need of assistance, that were helped by the power of social media. From sending money to a couple who were desperately trying to save the life of a golden retriever puppy that was hit by a car in West Virginia to a woman battling cancer and hoping to raise money and awareness not for a cure, but for the hospice that was looking after her and so many others in her final days. I have been moved to tears, moved to taking out my wallet and moved to the point of asking these people how I can be more involved, how we can take this scenario and turn it into something bigger with the power of social media behind us. 

2. Finding friends I will have for life has probably been one of the biggest positives I've taken from social media. Whether these are women that also work in social media, or simply women that have messaged, with messages leading to coffee, I have met more incredible individuals over this past decade than I could have ever wished for in my wildest dreams. And the ways in which they have inspired me are truly endless.

3. On a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, I am blown away by the creative genius that unfolds on my instagram feed. The way in which one person can interpret a scene in an entirely different manner from the person sitting next to them is astounding. This has always been one of my favourite things about attending events or travelling the world with instagrammers. We can all be sitting at the same exact table and every single one of us will present the scene in an entirely different way. It sometimes feels like we weren't at the same table at all. It's such a lesson, learning that we all see the world differently from one another. 

4. I follow people from nearly every continent on this earth with social media and in one hour of swiping can be taken on an adventure around the globe, seeing what someone is having for breakfast in Australia and dinner in New York. I am exposed to so many different cultures, so many different traditions and, my personal favourite, so many different wardrobes. I do believe this is such an incredible way to not only educate people about different cultures, it also allows us to share difference ideas and different solutions in a fast and effective way.

5. Now, this one's a bit of selfish positive, so forgive me. But, I truly love that I have the ability to share content that could possibly make someone smile. Oh, please don't cringe. Stick with me here. In a world of sharing, I think we all have a decision to make in what we share. We can be all things to everyone, if we want to be. We can share the good, the bad and the ugly. We can be educational. We can be motivational. We can truly define our own space. From the start of FFG, I've made the decision to be positive and to try and keep that momentum throughout everything I do. It's not for everyone, granted, but it's what I wanted to bring to the world with my voice. And that's a decision each one of us can make. We can choose to be a light in someone's day if we want to be. That's pretty damn amazing, if you ask me.

6. Following on with number 5, social media can be exactly what you want it to be. You are in charge of your own social media experience, no one else. You are in the driver's seat and you decide what direction you steer. If you want to be a troll, there's plenty of road out there for you to drive. And it seems there are a hell of a lot of people out there taking those dark and dingy paths these days. But, the trolls are a small number in a community overflowing with people looking to steer their social media experience in a direction that will enable and empower in a positive way. At the end of the day, you're in control and, well, that's a pretty amazing thing to be in control of. So, treat it like you would a great playlist on spotify. Cull on a regular basis! Take out the people that aren't adding something of value to your life. Show the door to the people that make you feel anything other than amazing. Add people who can bring a smile to your face. Add them by the hundreds! 

That's it in a nutshell, really. And yes, I did feel the need to get it down in writing, not only for myself, but for anyone asking, "should we believe in social media as a positive driving force in 2019?" We absolutely should. This is a network of people in the hundreds of millions that can work together to bring about a revolution. Imagine the power in that number. And if even a small percentage decided tomorrow to use those numbers to do nothing but make every single one of their followers smile, the end result could be something fantastic. 

You, dear reader, have a choice to make today. What part do you want to play? Do you want to be a part of positivity and change? The easiest thing you do today could be posting about a local charity, sharing a joke or a funny story, or simply throwing an inspirational quote out there for the masses. What might seem so trivial or meaningless could be the one thing that changes a person's day for the better. Surely doing that is the best we can all ever hope to do in this world? When done en masse, well, that's when the real change happens....