A List of Times Social Media Brought Us Closer (Because We Need It)
Social media has come under fire for causing divisiveness and spreading hate—but that’s only part of the story.
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This past year has been a rough stretch for our industry: CNN has called it “the year tech took a dark turn” and the Telegraph wrote that 2017 was a “bad year for Silicon Valley” and that “next year could be even worse.
The vibe has been … not good—and with good reason. Recent headlines have forced us to come to grips with the prevalence of “fake news” and automated accounts that have been weaponized with the intent to undermine democracy. We’ve uncovered sinister video content aimed at harming children via platforms like YouTube. We’ve learned that some of the most prominent brands and personalities purchased fake followers as a means of falsifying authority.
And let’s not forget that teenagers are eating Tide Pods for likes.
With the criticism has come some much-needed action from the platforms. Most notably, Facebook has recently re-architected the News Feed to create more meaningful connections and emphasize community-driven stories.
The early days of social media were marked by the promise of instant connectivity, the dissolution of borders, and the democratization of media. While social has matured significantly from these beginnings, there are still instances in which the unifying power of social media has brought people closer together.
It’s important to acknowledge these moments—even as the landscape grows more and more complex. That’s why our 2018 global theme for Social Media Week is “Closer.” Brands, media companies, platforms, and technologies all play a role in fixing the environment and facilitating the types of experiences that facilitate community over divisiveness.
Here are a few examples of ways social media has brought us together over the past few months:
1. #MeToo & the Women’s March
Social media helped fuel the #MeToo movement by giving millions of women a voice and a chance to share their stories on a global stage. The groundswell of conversations helped elevate an important issue to the top of the cultural zeitgeist and drive tangible change in the real world.
2. Obama’s Charlottesville Tweet Breaks Record
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion…" pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
Amid a hateful and shameful event, people found hope in a simple message shared directly via former President Barack Obama. His tweet became the most RT-ed in history.
3. Facebook Takes Steps Forward
Is it a reawakening or a brilliant PR campaign? The jury’s out, but Facebook has been taking steps to live up to its new mission to create more meaningful connections. The platform even purchased an anonymous messaging platform that encourages teens to send positive vibes to the people around them.
4. BBC Kid Goes Viral
In the throes of an intense and divided political landscape, people from around the world shared a universal chuckle when the adorable child of a BBC contributor commandeered the segment, stealing the show (and our hearts).
5. Fast Food Wars Turn Savage
QSR companies got spicy on social media this year, led by Wendy’s epic burns of competitors on Twitter. Sure, competition is fierce, but the fast food war wars show us that you might as well have fun with it. And in social, being human pays off.
6. Cardi B’s Astronomic Rise
Cardi B was everywhere last year, and now she’s even starring in Amazon’s Big Game spot. From reality star to top of the charts, she won over fans worldwide through her authentic, unfiltered approach to social media.
7. People Continue to Be Amazing on Twitter
Twitter got some flack in 2017. There were calls to deactivate the account of certain world leaders, concerns about bots and fake handles, and public outcry over the expanded character limit. Amid all of this, people continued to be absolutely hilarious on the platform, as evidenced by these tweets.
8. Rogue Employee Attains Hero Status
Speaking of Twitter, who could forget when a Twitter employee went rogue and temporarily shut down President Trump’s account?
9. Australian Lawmaker Proposes During Gay Marriage Debate
Social video allows us to gain access to amazing moments, like when Tim Wilson, a member of Parliament, proposed to his boyfriend amid a debate on same-sex marriage.
10. Nat Geo Reconnects the World with Nature
11. Trudeau Unleashes His Inner Nerd
Justin Trudeau is wearing Chewbacca socks I'M DEAD pic.twitter.com/7d0qV2IEt5
— Gary He (@garyhe) September 20, 2017
Thanks to social media, everyone now knows that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is lowkey a huge “Star Wars” fan. He donned a pair of Chewbacca socks at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and a photo of his look immediately went viral.
12. Social Media Fuels Political Activism
In the UK, young voters took to social to rally communities and drive turnout during recent elections. In New York, a primary challenger in the NY-12 race has already outraised his incumbent by a factor of four. (P.S. He joins SMWNYC in April to share his story.)
13. Terry Crews Stops by Reddit
Terry Crews, named one of TIME’s Silence Breakers of the Year, made a surprise visit to the subreddit Crews Crew to thank fans for their support.
14. Messaging that Matters
15. A Hopeful Future
New research indicates that Gen Z-ers are “turned off” by the pressure to sell themselves as brands via social media. Along these lines, they opt for much more personal digital personalities with engagement centered around themes of “imagination, creativity, and intimate connection.”
We’ve all witnessed firsthand the hyperbolic tendencies of social media. Oftentimes, the algorithms serve to exaggerate the headlines and narrow our perspectives, warping how we perceive truth and reality over time.
The thing is: social media isn’t entirely eroding our humanity, but it’s not entirely saving it either. The truth lies somewhere in between, and it’s on us to ensure that we’re doing our part to bolster its community-building potential more than its propensity to pull us apart.
More than a global theme, we see “Closer” as a call to arms and the start of an important conversation about where we go from here. We look forward to engaging you in this conversation at our tenth anniversary SMWNYC conference this April.
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