It’s fair to say that social media as a platform has received its fair share of flack over the years. With millions of millennials at risk of the medium’s capacity to perpetuate issues like unhealthy body image or unrealistic ‘#lifegoals’, it’s easy to forget the potential that social media has to do good.
In January of this year, 19-year old woman Radha Lohar, was being forcibly taken across India by human traffickers. After passing what turned out to be a life-saving note to a fellow passenger on their train to Dehli, the note was tweeted to India’s Ministry of Railways account and immediately investigated. Within an hour, Lohar was rescued by Railway Protection Force Personnel and her traffickers were handed over to the authorities. What’s in a tweet? Quite a lot, actually.
Just days ago, Lucy Hill, a backpacker who broke her pelvis in a moped accident in Thailand, was declared out of “immediate danger” by her family after hundreds of fellow travellers flocked to Chiang Mai to donate blood. Her blood type – A negative – was so rare in the immediate area that her friends and family took to Facebook to appeal to Brits travelling around the South East Asian hotspot; the post was shared 40,000 times within six hours, and has saved Lucy’s life.
Not only do we have organic, user-made viral campaigns to be thankful for, but Facebook itself has served as an incredible resource in times of crisis. ’Safety Check’ allows users to check the status of their friends’ and family’s safety in times of natural disasters or terror attacks, for example the organised bombings and mass shootings in Paris on November 13th 2015. Users in the capital city were offered to check in, creating automated ‘Joe Brown marked himself safe during the Paris Terror Attacks’ statuses that immediately notified their entire Facebook network. With phone lines regularly down in these incidents and the majority of millennials in particular getting their news from social media, this check in adds a vital news-based element to the platform, with approximately 360 million users receiving notifications that their Facebook friends were safe.
Twitter too, saw users create a viral hashtag to support those trapped in the Paris Attacks. #PorteOuverte, meaning ‘open door’ stating users addresses, was used to offer shelter to those on the streets of Paris on the night of November 13th.
For every damaging #thinspiration or incident of cyberbullying that can be found online, there is a tweet or status of support or aid. It’s very easy to scapegoat social media for the problems that the millennial generation face in particular, however these instances – whichever tragedy they may stem from – prove that the kindness of strangers is alive and well, especially online.