The power of social media

Lately, I have found myself reflecting a lot on how I perceive social media, how I use it and how much potential it actually has. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when it comes to social media, I’ve been getting a kind of negative vibe for some time now. Instead of love and kindness I see a lot of fear and hatred in comment sections, in tweets and on Facebook pages. What happened and how did it happen so fast?

I think it’s time to show social media in a positive context again. In a way that inspires people to change things for the better. It’s time to show what has been achieved through the power of social media already.

Social media – used for good

Imagine it’s summer 2014 and people film themselves while they are emptying a bucket filled with ice and cold water right over their heads. Yeah, you guessed right. I’m talking about the Ice Bucket Challenge. People were nominated to dump ice buckets over their heads in order to raise awareness for a disease called “ALS”.

Even though people were criticizing and making fun of this challenge something happened. Something good. Several billion euros were donated and researchers were able to discover a new gene that is related to ALS. A real breakthrough, due to the power of social media.

How social media changed Vienna

For the next scenario we are in Vienna in spring 2015. Two important events are just about to begin: The Eurovision Song Contest and the Life Ball. In order to improve the appeal of the city, Vienna got some brand new traffic lights for pedestrians portraying couples of the same gender. What was meant to be a project of a short duration accompanied by researchers turned into a movement.

While some politicians weren’t too happy about same-sex couples on traffic lights, the internet was reacting in a very positive way. Those traffic lights became so popular that they are still there today. Surveys have even shown that people tend to be more cautious at cross roads with traffic light couples. If it hadn’t been for the positive reaction on social media we wouldn’t be able to see those traffic lights anymore.

Being social in real life

Now, let’s move on to my last scenario: It’s summer 2016 and we are in Stadtpark in Vienna. We see lots of people running around staring at their phones or talking to each other. Of course – they are playing Pokémon Go!. Through this app people were able to discover Vienna on a whole new level because the game shows a map with arenas and Pokéstops which are based on real life places with cultural value. Random strangers started talking instead of just ignoring each other. Friendships were made. People with all kinds of backgrounds were helping each other out.

These examples aren’t the only ones that show the potential social media has to offer. But it’s a start. I would be thrilled to see more of these inspiring trends that occurred through the power of social media. Why don’t you create a positive movement of your own? As you can see, it’s far from impossible. A few more positive social media trends would do us all some good.

For the next couple of weeks we will publish ideas worth spreading in cooperation with the Wienvestigativ initiative of the journalism students of the University of Vienna. This blog post is written by guest author Stephanie Turner.

Picture credits: Cover image by Unsplash

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