As my first two blog posts have explored the potential negative impacts of social media, I wanted to turn to the positive impacts. By positive I mean beyond just the business potential of social media as it relates to the bottom line.
When the unexpected happens
As I thought about this I recalled a day last fall when, as I did every day, I arrived at my daughter’s elementary school a few minutes before 3 pm to pick her up. As I crossed the street, the crossing guard informed me that the school had gone into lock-down five minutes previously and she didn’t know how long it would be before the children were released. When I got to the door where I met my daughter each day, the regular group of after school pick-up parents were assembling. We had no information about what caused the lock-down. I wondered what could be happening that posed such a threat that the children could not leave their classrooms, let alone the school. I wondered if it was safe for the parents to be waiting outside.
Where to turn for information
The feeling of being so close to your child but unable to be with her and protect her while not knowing the potential danger facing us is indescribable. My first reaction was to grab my phone and check Twitter. Local news in my feed reported that a student at a high school in close proximity to my daughter’s school had been seen with a hand gun. The high school, my daughter’s school and two others in the immediate area were on lock-down as police investigated. I was relieved to know what was happening. Further relief came with information that the police quickly discovered that the gun was a replica and the lock-down was soon lifted at all the schools.
Social media in crisis situations
As I reflected on this situation, I thought about the recent hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean and southern United States and the role social media played in the rescue efforts.
Marcus Gilmer’s article, Social media’s best qualities shine during Harvey response, highlights examples of how social media was used to aid in rescue efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Social media had a huge impact during this natural disaster compared to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Facebook was a still a private platform and Twitter didn’t yet exist. When the 911 system was overwhelmed during Hurricane Harvey, locations of where people were stranded were posted on Twitter so anyone with a boat who could help could respond. The Cajun Navy, a group of civilians with boats, used Facebook and Twitter to broadcast their availability to help, and a Facebook group was created to help people track loved ones in the area.
Similar to Gilmer’s article, Fast Company produced this short video capturing how social media helped in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, including Facebook’s safety check feature and a Snapchat Harvey Story with over 300,000 posts.
Gilmer captured the impact of social media well. “There’s a constant theme shining on social media during this disaster: acts of kindness and helpfulness abound.” He went on to write “for a few days the good rose to the top, the positive potential of social media outpaced the bad and displayed what can happen when the full potential of these tools are realized.”
There are no doubt negative impacts of social media, along with bad behaviour among some people who share on it. Social media is at its core a reflection of us as a society. Some of that is bad. But, overwhelmingly, it’s good.
What are your experiences with seeing the best of society reflected on social media?
Find out how social media helps in a crisis http://bit.ly/2zkMRZb
Can social media bring out the best in us? It can in a crisis – find out how http://bit.ly/2zkMRZb
Gilmer, M. (2017, August 29). Social media’s best qualities shine during Harvey response. Retrieved from: http://mashable.com/2017/08/29/social-media-harvey-rescues-force-for-good/#PBdrJBGUGOqR
FastCompany. (2017, August 29). The power of social media during natural disasters, August 29 2017 [Video]. Retrieved from: https://www.fastcompany.com/40460182/the-power-of-social-media-during-natural-disasters