Social Media: A Positive Tool, Not a Negative Platform

A couple months ago, I experimented with social media by simply “listening” for a day. I didn’t post anything, but I scrolled through my Facebook feed and my Twitter stream like I regularly do. Listening without the expected next action of responding or liking or sharing takes you out of the equation and lets you view the content you are seeing with a different perspective. What I saw was rather shocking. Overwhelmingly, there was a great negative pall over my online reality.  Most common was the update or tweet that offered up a complaint about something. Politicians were a common target. The government was a common target. The state of the world as seen through an individual’s perspective was of course also present.  In stepping back, I of course realized I’m just as guilty of contributing to that smoggy cloud as anyone. I lament the state of the world. I lament that there are genocides going on that nobody seems to care about. I lament that people are more concerned about the next iPhone than they are about the shaky economic forecasts gathering for 2013.

Humans, as a rule, like to feel better when they don’t feel good. This traces back to our childhood. When you fell down you went to your mommy because you knew she’d make it better. When you are stressed about your job, you go running or eat a tub of ice cream, or both, because you know it will make you feel better. But I discovered another interesting thing as I listened for a day. People who complain on social media platforms don’t seem to want to be comforted. We want to complain. We want our complaints to be validated by likes or retweets. We want to stir up the fire but we don’t want to put the fire out.

After viewing the negativity that surrounds my online presence, I decided to try to make a conscientious effort to turn potential negatives into positives. To me, it seems like we most often identify social media as a voice amplifier. If we have a complaint, we can reach a lot more people with it thanks to social media platforms. But in thinking about it, social media can be a lot more than that. Social Media, if we let it, can be an action amplifier. It can be the spark that lights a fire of positive change instead of a fire of negativity that creates a lot of choke-inducing smoke. If there is something you are unhappy about, social media offers you an unprecedented opportunity to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

There are countless examples of people who have started to use social media to create positive change. Mark Horvath’s InvisiblePeople.TV is a fantastic example of this. The power of social media enables Mark to give a voice to the homeless of our country. Scott Stratten used social media in the #tutusforTanner effort a few years ago because he didn’t like that a family was struggling to fulfill their boy’s desperate last wish. He could have just written up a blog post about it or lamented the situation on Facebook. Instead, he did something about it. Dan Perez uses social media to share his videos to raise awareness, his latest effort being a focus on kids struggling with Dravet Syndrome. Razoo uses the power of social media integrated with offline efforts and in doing so, they have helped raise millions of dollars for causes across the country.

The list goes on.

Sadly, the majority of the people who complain the most and the loudest seldom participate in these kinds of efforts. However, if enough people shift the focus from “I can complain” to “I can change this,” I think everyone will eventually be swept into the tide, and those that staunchly refuse will increasingly be seen as people who simply want to be miserable.

We live in tumultuous times. Complaining is easy, especially with social media and technology advancing like they are. Fighting with people we may never have to meet in real life is one way we can choose to spend our time. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather reign in the power of this new means of communication and use it to improve the things that need to improve.

What do you say? Are you in?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/minimalisation/7942393032/ via Creative Commons

14 comments
barrettrossie
barrettrossie

I hear what you're saying about negativity. I try not to engage in it because I'm too busy looking for opportunities -- for relationships both personal and business. 

danperezfilms
danperezfilms

Never bet against human nature - even in the social space. It needs to be accepted. Period. That said, I tend to enjoy a nice mix of complainers, social aggressors, those that do good, and those who just want to buy the world a Coke. It takes all kinds to spin this silly world.

 

One thing we shouldn't do is let what other people do affect what we do. Let people complain and spew negativity; it's never gonna go away. No matter how much we blog about it or chat about it on twitter - it is what it is.

 

Just do what you do for whatever reason you do it...and let the complainers complain. 

 

Thanks for sharing my post. I do agree with about 73% of what you've written here (that's pretty high!) ;)

profkrg
profkrg

Magizzle,

 

I wonder if I do this! I post about my shoes a lot. And, of course, snarky memes. I'm going to start paying closer attention. I don't want to be a social media "Debbie Downer." There already is too much of that in the world. Of course, I also don't want to be one of those rainbow and unicorns people. I guess there has to be a happy medium somewhere. However, I'm a pretty happy (yet snarky) person who lives a blessed life. I hope that comes across more in my posts than any complaining. I must watch!

 

Kenna

copelandconsult
copelandconsult

Well said, Margie! It's not just online that we like to complain — we seem to do it an awful lot in person, too (must be something hardwired into humans, one of the downsides of our huge brains!). I'm always inspired when I hear about an online (or offline) campaign that effects positive change. Today, such events stand out. One day, perhaps, they will become more commonplace, giving us that many more moments to celebrate the amazing things we can accomplish.

jackinessity
jackinessity

SO IN!!! Does this explain the big red gum tweets? Because I love you. I mean, those.

rdopping
rdopping

I would say I'm in. I have often wondered about the same thing. Most of the community I am part of seem to be positive folks but when I think about that community it is a microcosm of what exists. I do know there is a ton of negative crap out there but I seek to avoid it as it becomes highly unproductive to even acknowledge it let alone engage.

 

I think the folks that are activists for positive change are doing a great thing but I don't think it needs to be monumentous just as you pointed out. Simple gestures can bring positive change and even an attitude toward fun, learning and understanding in order to help a friend counts in a big way. Helping one life is a great thing.

 

That was a heartfelt piece. Thank you for sharing it.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @danperezfilms That's an all-time high! Wahoo!

 

You're right - complainers will complain. I guess I just find it odd that when presented with a super simple solution, they'd still rather complain. Doesn't that get boring? I get bored with it at any rate!

 

You're doing great work. Keep it up!

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @profkrg That's a good question. I enjoy  being kind of snarky (just for fun). But there was a situation not long ago where a friend posted a wedding picture to celebrate their anniversary, and people were picking on them and being all snarky about it, and it just bugged me for some reason. I knew they all were kidding and I knew they all liked each other, but it just bummed me out. I think if you're snarky it's important online, especially around people who don't know you, to balance that with pointedly being positive at times, if only so they know your real feelings about them while you snark at each other. Make sense?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @copelandconsult That's true - it would be interesting to pay more attention to how we present ourselves offline too, but of course in the online world our words hang around a lot longer. It's a lot easier to examine that way. 

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @rdopping It can most definitely start with a simple gesture. And that's the thing - how easy does social media make it to do a good deed? I have a post I just wrote with ten great things you could do in probably 10 minutes. It's crazy not to try, you know?

profkrg
profkrg

 @margieclayman Yes, this does make sense. It reminds me that I need to think more carefully about my online interactions. Unfortunately, it just becomes like second nature, and I often don't think before I post. Not good at all!

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