Contrary to popular belief, Facebook and twitter are not just about sharing what you had for breakfast or complaining about the Saskatchewan Roughriders. There are some really cool ways to connect with friends, family and complete strangers alike! In last weeks EC&I 831 class, Dr. Richard Schwier talked about community and asked us to think about the communities that we belong to and participate in. Many people in the class had reservations about joining social media communities, or wondered if they were indeed communities at all. I believe that social media does create community in different ways and in fact makes the world we live in a smaller place. I would like to share a few personal stories about connecting through social media that will hopefully demonstrate this point.
The first story I would like to share takes place about 5 years ago in Australia. I was on holiday in July of 2008 and staying in Sydney for about 6 days. Each day I would update my status on Facebook and share what I had done that day in Sydney. A friend of mine back home in Saskatchewan saw that I was in Sydney and messaged me to tell me that that a mutual friend of ours was currently living in Brisbane and I should look her up on Facebook. I did just that and sent her a friend request immediately with a message telling her that I was currently in Sydney. She accepted my friend request and replied back saying that she was going to be in Sydney the next day for business and would love to meet up. Below is a picture of two Canadian friends, who hadn’t talked or seen each other in years, sharing a drink on Darling Harbor in Sydney, Australia. To me, that is a very cool and powerful application of social media.
My second story revolves around a song that a friend of mine and I wrote in protest of the abolition of the Film Tax Credit in Saskatchewan. The government’s decision to get rid of this tax incentive for the film industry affected me personally, and more importantly, it affected many of my friends that worked in the film industry in Saskatchewan. In response to the government’s announcement my friend and I wrote the following parody song in protest, filmed it, and posted it on YouTube.
It wasn’t long after we posted this video on YouTube and shared it on Facebook and twitter that we had a couple thousand views and we were generating a lot of conversation on our YouTube post. Shortly after, we were invited to sing our song at a rally in Saskatoon at which many of the main players in Sask Film would be at, including Saskatoon’s own Kim Coates. Many of the news organizations covering the story and the rally also used clips of our video in the story. I even had complete strangers coming up to me and recognizing me from that video. Without social media, our song and message would not have had nearly the same impact as it did. Social activism is another powerful application of social media.
The last story I have to share is a really powerful story which clearly demonstrates social media as community. About a year ago, a friend of mine and his wife found out that their 5 year old son had a cancerous brain tumor. They began to share their son’s story on Facebook and as a result, friends and strangers alike were drawn into to this brave little boys battle. People began to rally around Tyler and his family and offered their support, some with just a small message, others with much larger gestures. One friend of the family began a campaign called Sailing Around the World for Tyler, which raised money for the family, and inspired thousands of people to follow Tyler’s story. A complete stranger, who had no connection to the family at all, set up an online silent auction to raise money for the family. She asked people to donate items and administered the auction herself. As more and more people began to follow Tyler’s story, even the local media picked up the story. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you reading this have heard about Tyler’s battle. Unfortunately Tyler eventually lost his battle with cancer, but his parents are now using Facebook as a way of grieving and also as a way of bring awareness to this disease. One 5 year old boy’s story was able to bring thousands of people together. If this isn’t an example of community, I don’t know what is.
Yes, it is true, some people share what they had for breakfast on Facebook and twitter. Some people post way too many pictures of their babies. Some people share their every thought and opinion. But people are also sharing their hopes and dreams, their travels, their families, and also their tragedies. This is what a community does. It shares with each other. They learn together, they celebrate together, and they grieve together. So I say to those people out there that may be afraid to share themselves on social media, take a risk, you might be surprised what people might give you back in return.
I would love to hear about your cool social media stories, so please share in the comment area below!