How social networking can be used for the social good
Posted November 29, 2011
"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" - Chinese Proverb
When I initially wrote, "Are you a Slacktivist?" I wasn't sure what it was exactly about the Facebook cartoon campaign and others like it that bothered me so much. All I knew was that it really got under my skin. As I thought longer and harder about it I came to the conclusion that what bugged me the most was the missed potential. Here we had the attention of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.... and nothing was really accomplished. It was like the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom without Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.
At the conclusion of the First World Congress on Positive Psychology in June 2009, Dr. Martin Seligman laid down the gauntlet for all who attended. Increase the percentage of the world population that is considered 'flourishing' from today's 7-33% to 51% by the year 2051. Being that the focus of much of my life's work has been on populations that are far from flourishing (from homeless drug addicted youth in Australia to the slums of Africa), I took this goal as a personal challenge.
Taking the Chinese Proverb above seriously meant that I could turn my frustration with Slacktivism into a way of addressing Dr. Seligman's challenge. I knew that it was possible to use the incredible power of social networking to achieve positive outcomes. I have seen it happen over and over again on an online community, Reddit.
Reddit has undertaken and accomplished some amazing acts of kindness and generosity. A few of my favorite have been; Reddit Secret Santa (a special shout out to my gifter and giftee, magnathorax and domirillo!), a 90th birthday surprise for a Redditors grandfather, and joining together to bring a musical heirloom to life (Check out this page for a list of the top 25)!
Reddit is not alone in their online acts of altruism. I recently saw this video put out by Kiva tracking their online donations since they were first created. Websites like Kickstarter, Katipult and Crowdrise have also found a way to utilize social media for the social good.
The difference between supporting these campaigns and the slacktivist campaigns that plague my existence are that these websites identify an issue, identify people working to solve that issue, and then mobilize people around it. Facebook and Twitter are now an essential tool in the belt of any non-profit. We can either curse the fact that they exist, or we can light the candle of potential that inherently lies within them.
Now when I see a post asking me to post my bra colour for breast cancer, or take a photo of my cat for poverty....I can link directly to an online fundraiser that is actually addressing the problem. When I find an online campaign that I want to support I can share it with my network of contacts and I can encourage others to do so.
So to all of you out there who are guilty of being a Slackivist I offer you this challenge; If you can get thousands of people to change their profile picture for you....can you inspire them to donate even just one dollar? Try it...and see what good can come out of your social network!