When it comes to social media, I think many of us have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. There are so many positive aspects about the connectivity it can generate, the relationships it can develop, maintain or strengthen and the exposure it can bring to many forms of information and inspiration. But there are also well documented aspects of social media that lead some to avoid it. Here are three redemptive uses of social media that I believe could make it one of our greatest assets in making the world a better place!!
1. Advocate & support
Social media provides a powerful platform to raise awareness, profile and funds for deserving people and causes.
Through social media, we are connected with needs and opportunities that might not otherwise come to our attention. From the comfort of our own couches we can donate to worthy causes, support individuals in their world changing efforts, sponsor research initiatives, support small business, petition governments and change agencies, and shine a spotlight on need and injustice. We can also share stories of courage, inspiration and hope.
The simple act of ‘liking’ a post increases its reach, ‘sharing’ or re-posting even moreso and our comments offer encouragement and support to the person or organisation – cheering them on to bigger and better accomplishments on behalf of those who need it most.
So whether it is the opportunity to support a friend’s child in the “Jump Rope for Heart” skipathon, or sign a Collective Shout petition to take steps to rid the world of sexual exploitation, or read a story that awakens our hearts to injustice, or sponsor a young person travelling overseas to understand more of the needs of the world, or donate goods to a prison or homeless ministry, or donate to aid men’s mental health, or like, share or comment on the activity of someone championing another worthy cause … or to utilise the platform to raise funds or awareness for those things God puts on your heart – do it!
A sure fire antidote for the draw of social media to be about self-indulgence, comparison, appearance management or complaining is to consider how we might use the platform to draw attention to what matters and use our voices on behalf of those without one.
2. Honour & encourage others
There are no shortage of places a person can turn to if they’re looking to be torn down. Even without trying we can find ourselves on the end of others’ (or even our own) criticism, judgement and exclusion. Social media offers a place to reverse that experience and to bring encouragement, affirmation and honour into one another’s lives.
Special occasions – birthdays, graduations, achievements, Mother’s/Father’s/Valentine’s Days, anniversaries, new jobs, farewells (etc) – are a great opportunity to publicly honour people of significance in our lives. Those we admire, those we are proud of, those we desire to champion and celebrate. And even on no-special-occasion-at-all days! What a great opportunity social media presents to say a kind word or two – to or about another person. To pause just a little longer to find words to articulate what you appreciate about them or how they are positively influencing your life and the lives of those around them.
I love the chance to share a photo and a ‘shout out’ to someone who is giving their all and living their best life. How grateful are we for people around us who do that in a way we can aspire to and be encouraged by!? Why wouldn’t we take the opportunities to share that sense of gratitude with others and give their spirits a boost in the process?
But even more than that, we can honour and encourage just in the ways we react to other people’s sharing. I often hear people talk about social media being a place they find hard because, for them, it breeds jealousy and discontent. What mental and/or heart shift might we make to see or hear of another’s success or enjoyment and choose to celebrate them rather than give voice to the negative or self-focussed emotions that might otherwise threaten to come to the surface? What we speak out to others we speak into our own psyche also – the choice to affirm or celebrate can do as much for our own wellbeing as it does for the object of our comments.
3. Spread joy!
If you have a bad customer service experience at the shops or on the phone to your insurance company. If you have opinions on the ineptitude of …**insert people of greatest annoyance here** (other road users, politicians, attendants at McDonald’s drive thru windows, people who misuse apostrophes etc). If you have a grievance about, well, anything or anyone – you will no doubt find some cathartic relief in bashing out a well-worded (or otherwise) rant on social media and then find a degree of satisfaction in the responses of others. People are very ready to jump on board with their own stories or deep empathy for your plight.
I’m just not sure it really helps much in the long run. In some cases, it does nothing more than rally people towards judgement and bullying. In most cases, it achieves nothing positive.
Social media platforms are perfectly poised to be a mechanism to bring joy, hope, life-giving encouragement and edification. To bring laughter to someone’s day (I find a story of your own epic failure is a great way to get people laughing!!), to acknowledge difficulty and share burdens, to speak words of peace, promise and potential into another’s circumstances. To give a cyber high-five to people who are succeeding at being an adult (you know, doing all the things!) or a cyber hug to those living through difficult seasons.
It’s a good question to ask of what you post yourself – and also a posture to adopt in your responses to what other’s post – does this spread joy? Does this perpetuate positivity? Does this point people toward things that are beautiful and creative and life-giving and hope inspiring and people honouring and smile inducing and motivating? When you could respond in jealousy, will you choose celebration? When you could dismiss or minimise the needs and hurts of another, might you choose words of empathy and compassion? When you could highlight the negative, would you choose instead to emphasise the positive?
Thoughts for action :-
Do you use Social Media in these positive ways? How might you change your online engagement to utilise these platforms to advocate and support, honour and encourage and spread a little more joy?