Will Social Media Save the World?
Looks Like the Sun is Out Again on Social Media
When Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms were first launched a decade or so ago, they were greeted with great excitement. People enjoyed them, and many businesses and organizations quickly saw a new marketing door open-up before their very eyes.
But in the past few years, many have become suspicious of these platforms. They are not always sure if what they are seeing and reading is accurate or not.
While some healthy skepticism is always good no matter where it is found, social media seemed to be getting more than its share.
However, COVID-19 appears to have changed this.
Many people are now using social media to find the latest news, learn more about outbreak zones, and in some cases, find out what is really going on. They believe that some governments may be withholding important information.
In his New York Times article, "When Facebook is More Trustworthy Than the President," Ben Smith writes,
"All through February and early March, the voices of doctors and nurses on social media provided a vital antidote to those of confused and often complacent political leaders embodied by President Trump."
While you may or may not agree with Smith's assessment of President Trump, the focus of his article is that social media visitors were much more focused on firsthand accounts – from nurses, doctors, as well as people like you and me – to better understand what is happening when it pertains to COVID.
Further, some global leaders have been delivering mixed messages about the importance of such things as social distancing and the wearing of masks. However, several social media users now say they first learned of the importance – and believe the importance - of these measures by what they found on social media platforms.
There are also other benefits of social media emerging during this pandemic. For instance, it has helped many users cope with the shortages of supplies, especially those we experienced when the outbreak first occurred.
When grocery stores around the country were out of toilet paper, someone posted on a social media platform that people should try contacting business and office supply companies, both chains and independents around the country. While most of these outlets only sold commercial toilet paper, they did have toilet paper, helping to address the shortages.
Further, many people started sharing homemade hand sanitizer recipes and taught others how to make sanitizing wipes as well as masks. This at a time when all these items were virtually impossible to find.
And like our example above, when major grocery store chains were out of certain products, social media users saved the day by telling others what local stores still had those supplies on the shelves.
And then there is social shaming. Social media has helped educate many people, even if it must shame them, about the importance of following COVID safety precautions.
On April 25, 2020, a video of a party attended by nearly 100 people in Chicago went viral. It was posted live to Facebook and showed people partying, dancing, and listening to music. The room was packed, and most attending were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Few were wearing masks.
Since going viral, more than one million people have watched the video. Doing so has helped educate parents, and most importantly, their children, how dangerous activities like this can be. The Mayor, the Governor, and the Chicago police have all come out criticizing the party. New rules and regulations were soon imposed to prevent such an event from occurring again.
But it is possible just seeing the party on Facebook and realizing how unsafe this can be - at this time - already changed behaviors. The rules, regulations, and condemnation were not needed. The Facebook video did the trick.
But let's end on a lighter note.
Social media sites are also helping us in another way, and that is they are helping relieve some of the boredom many of us are feeling.
Along with education, they are also providing 24/7 entertainment, happy diversions, as well as non-disease information. This is giving many of us a much deserved "time out" from all the COVID news on network and cable media outlets, and its likely nearly all of us can use that right now.
Prepared for DS&P by AlturaSolutions Communications