■ Metro Service / Contributed
Social media changed the world. Despite their relative infancy, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are now ingrained in the everyday lives of billions of people across the globe.
Though it has its critics, social media also has the potential to effect positive change. Grassroots fundraising efforts such as the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” in which participants dumped ice cold water over their heads to raise awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS, might have seemed silly at the time, but that’s just one example of how social media was deployed to support a good cause. In fact, the American ALS Association reported receiving 13 times as much in contributions in 2014 (the year when the challenge was popular on social media) as it did the year prior.
Social media makes it possible for ordinary citizens to help their communities in significant ways. Prior to social media, to effect such change might have seemed nearly impossible. But the following are just a handful of ways to utilize social media to help your community.
• Stick to what’s important to you. If you want to effect change in your community but the novelty of social media has worn off, you can still use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about causes that are important to you. In fact, limiting your posts to instances where you’re raising awareness about certain issues, highlighting events in your community or urging others to donate to important local causes might help ensure more of those posts are actually read. Friends and followers may be less inclined to read your posts and learn about the issues you care about if such posts are sandwiched between inane posts about everyday life.
• Start a group. Another way to help your community is to invite other social media users in your community to join a group focused on addressing a particular cause or issue in your community. For example, a Facebook group can be a great place to organize a park cleanup and help fellow residents recognize the need to remove debris from a nearby park. Organizing such groups won’t require much time, but they can be an effective and convenient way to connect like-minded individuals in your community.
• Promote and support others’ achievements. Promoting and supporting others’ achievements is another way to use social media to build a sense of community. A simple expression of support for a local athlete, author, teacher, etc., may inspire others to offer their own support, strengthening your community and the connection you and your neighbors feel to it.
Social media can be used to strengthen communities and foster a sense of pride among residents.