Seems like every day, there are sensational news headlines linking social media with the darker aspects of human society. But social media isn’t just a vortex of negativity and narcissism. In fact, it has been used as a tool to bring positivity and change to the world. Here are some of our favorite examples of good being done on social media.
Peace and Love and Unity in the Holy City pic.twitter.com/4XWHW866BH
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) June 22, 2015
In the wake of tragedy, sometimes the smallest gesture can grow into an opportunity for healing. On June 17, 2015, nine members of the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina were shot and killed. In response to this devastating attack, Dorsey Fairbain of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina decided to organize a “unity chain,” asking members of the community to congregate on the city’s Ravenel Bridge to pay their respects to those the community had lost. The day after the attack, Fairbain posted a Facebook status about the event that went viral within hours. More than 15,000 people showed up, including future Late Night host and South Carolina native, Stephen Colbert. The crowd marched to the center of the bridge, escorted by Mount Pleasant Police Chief, Carl Ritchie, and 40 officers, where they observed nine minutes of silence – one minute for each of the lives lost in the gunman’s attack. The event went on to make national headlines, and brought a moment of hope to the devastated community.
At this point, Batkid is a well-known story, but it’s still such a heartwarming one it’s worth including on this list. Batkid, a.k.a. Miles Scott, took the the streets of Gotham City, alongside Batman, to foil the plots of The Riddler and Penguin; ride in the Batmobile; save innocent bystanders; and ultimately be awarded the key to the city, while winning the hearts of its citizens. Scott was diagnosed with leukemia at just 18 months old. After years of treatment, his cancer finally went into remission at five years old. To make the young comic book fan’s dream of being Batman a reality, the Make-A-Wish foundation partnered with a social media marketing company, resulting in over 7,000 citizens of Gotham (actually, it was San Francisco) showing up to support Batkid and his crime-fighting adventure, and spawning a documentary of the event.
Twitter has something of a reputation for being a depository for the Internet’s complaints. Open up your feed right now, and it won’t take long at all to find someone upset over something. But the non-profit company Epic Change – whose work focuses on building schools, libraries, and housing in poor regions of the world – had the idea to create a hashtag centered around gratitude. It used that wave of positivity to fund education facilities for a village in Tanzania. All over the world, people used the hashtag #TweetsGiving to express their gratitude on America’s national day of thanks, Thanksgiving. The event spread awareness of the campaign and brought in thousands of dollars in donations. “TweetsGiving” has since become an annual event, taking place November 24-26.
The Dancing Man
The “Dancing Man” is about then 42-year-old Sean O’Brian, who was photographed at a music event trying to dance, and ultimately being laughed at and shamed by the photographers. The pics were posted online, where it was noticed by Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer from California. Fairbanks started a hashtag on social media to get O’Brien’s attention and assure him that no matter what he looks like, he should never be ashamed to dance. The hashtag not only got O’Brien’s attention, but the support of people like Pharrell Williams, Meghan Trainor, and the king of party himself, Andrew WK. The furor resulted in a massive, star-studded Hollywood dance party for O’Brien, a fundraiser for an anti-bullying organization, and the spread of body-image positivity, all thanks to Twitter.
Using social media to extend a kind gesture doesn’t necessarily have to result in trending hashtags or national headlines; sometimes, a small, passionate community can bring happiness to someone’s life in just the same way. This was the case for a young Minnesota girl, Mackenzie Moretter. When Mackenzie was just a year old, she was diagnosed with Sotos Syndrome, a genetic disorder. Wanting to do something special for her daughter’s 10th birthday, Mackenzie’s mother, Jenny Moretter, invited her friends for a party. Sadly, none of them showed up. Jenny reached out to her own friends on Facebook, asking them to bring their children so Mackenzie could have a fun and memorable birthday. What resulted was a guest list of more than 300 people that included the entire Shakopee, Minnesota fire department; Minnesota Vikings wide-receiver, Charles Johnson, and his family; and even Elsa from Disney’s Frozen (well, someone dressed as her). The party was catered by Sam’s Club and a local restaurant, Mr. Pig’s Stuffed Barbeque, making for quite the party for Mackenzie. A GoFundMe for the party raised over $2,100 toward Sotos Syndrome research.