The use of social media to spark change – good and bad

Social media has ushered in an age unlike anything we as humans have seen before. This connectivity allows us to share ideas and spread support like wildfire, but the same could be said for hate and negativity.

In the same instance, we can look at a facebook page and see images or stories pertaining to instances of police brutality in America, alongside a video showcasing a city’s dedication to helping the homeless.

The diverse use of social media is daunting, however, the power and influence of this medium is even more daunting. With each platform of social media, there are ways to utilize your space and draw people in. Specific words, formats and fonts can make or break Internet popularity. The power of social media is greater than we could have expected, and so far unparalleled.

There are people who say social media is ruining the human interaction experience, but there are two sides to every coin.

As a positive, social media can be used as a catalyst for change. Think about Malala Yousafzai, a female activist and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Part of the way her message spread was through online images and spoken word on platforms such as facebook and Twitter. The way that social media was utilized to share the thoughts, opinions and actions of this young woman led to global recognition of her name.

Now for the flip side – Boko Haram is a horrible organization with radical views that have taken the lives and liberties of hundreds of known victims, let alone those who remain anonymous. Boko Haram utilized Twitter to share a video of them beheading a journalist, and even though the content was obscene, it went viral instantly.

A delicate balance of free speech, hate speech, news and propaganda is tested with each tweet, status, photo and comment online.

With this level of interconnectedness, every action, thought, opinion and word becomes fuel for someone to disagree. It also becomes the fuel that will continue to drive civil movements, changes in freedoms and rights.

The fuels of which I speak are videos that proclaim and show evidence of police brutality, violations of human rights and instances of inequality among citizens. We see images of starving people and war-torn countries. We have access to understanding the point of view of people all around the world in everyday instances.

With this information, we are sparking movements that take off with every click, share, like and ‘-retweet. Look at what happened in Ferguson – the shooting of a young black man by a white police officer, who was not indicted, sparked a massive inquiry into race relations in the United States and the condition of police authority.

Moments like these are happening all the time. One video or image can ‘break the Internet’. Photos of women topless to support a movement to show off their bodies when they want to are gaining popularity. When Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 school girls in Nigeria, hundreds and thousands of Tweets, statuses and photos were posted to the Internet with the tag #BringBackOurGirls.

Sharing a photo doesn’t fix anything, it just drives awareness. Awareness is something that people are starting to take seriously again.

I feel like we are in a time where social media will aid in major movements. There are sparks everywhere just waiting to touch something flammable and blow up in regards to social inequality and the questioning of social norms.

We are no longer content to read or hear about things. We are posting, we are sharing and passing on information in a manner that has never before been seen in our world.

I’m nervous to see where our world is going. This online globalization is almost surreal. Through viral media and connectivity, our world is beginning to truly reveal the human condition in all levels of society, not just the elite.

kmendonsa@lacombeexpress.com

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