Social Media (noun) – Websites and computer programs that allow people to communicate and share information on the internet using a computer or a mobile phone – Cambridge Dictionary Online
Traditionally, social change was seen over long-drawn periods of time through the actions of prominent individuals, but now, fueled by the power of social media, social change seems quicker to achieve and is now led by common people.
When enough people join a cause, they have shown that they can move mountains. An example is the #BringBackOurGirls campaign which was started for the rescue of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria by the Boko Haram.
This campaign spread like wildfire with protests organised all over the world and endorsements by global personalities including Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. The resultant ground swell of public support compelled the governments of major countries to get involved in the issue.
The power of the hashtag is almighty in this golden age of social media. A recent example is the #distractinglysexy campaign which was started by women scientists to oppose sexism in the workplace after sexist comments from Nobel Prize winner, Tim Hunt. This campaign became viral because of the way the scientists combined humour with the message.
Social media provides Not-for-Profits a means to reach out to a wider audience, generate public awareness on their social causes, raise funds and also drive people to take part in social movements.
The power of social media to connect youth in different parts of the world with grass-root social movements is truly exceptional. It has helped mobilise 50,000 youth across 1,000 cities and towns pan-India to engage with social causes by taking part in YES! I am the CHANGE 101-Hour Social Filmmaking Challenge.
Participants made 3-minute films on social causes and the process triggered an inner transformation and enabled the youth to become agents of social change while the films formed an open repository of invaluable communication resources for Not-for-Profits.
The challenge of using social media is to bridge the difference between the online and the offline .i.e. ensuring that engaging with people online leads to offline acts by them to advance social change.
The online and offline are often viewed as being conflicting mediums and are often used singly and in isolation, rather than being viewed as complementing platforms that should be used in tandem.
Social media alone may not solve all of the global problems, but it is an incredible tool to get us closer than ever to doing just that. It is here to stay and change our lives – whether it’s for the better or for the worse is completely up to us.