Sunday, February 5, 2012

What makes social media special...

There’s no question that social media has transformed the world during the past few years. Cyber bullying, diminished privacy, and technology overload are just some of the negative side effects of Twitter and Facebook – along with countless hours lost to “creeping,” and I know I’m not the only.

But much good has come from social media, too. A prime example is the Susan G. Komen controversy that blew up during the past week. In an alleged politically driven move, the Komen foundation announced that it would end funding to Planned Parenthood. Komen claimed that they don’t partner with organizations that are “under investigation,” whatever that’s supposed to mean – though it was clear that the decision was due to pressure from conservatives. While approximately three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are used for abortions, they provide thousands of women with screening, tips for prevention, and care – exactly the kinds of things the Komen foundation rallies for.

A few liberal blogs and sites reported on the decision, and they went viral as those against Komen’s decision shared the posts to friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. The outcry from the public was unbelievable, and it was the result of social media.

The issue really blew up over night, creating the ideal circumstances for reactive media – a situation where the media must respond to the news, rather than dictate it. The decision probably wouldn’t have even made the news 10 or 15 years ago, but the news isn’t a one-way lecture any more; it’s a conversation. Successful media sources feed off of what the people are already talking about, and that’s exactly what they did. Those who hadn’t heard about the Komen controversy through social media now had the mainstream media reporting on it too, just adding fuel to the already huge fire.

In less than a week, Planned Parenthood received more than $3 million in donations. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg even pledged $250,000 in matching grants.

The people had spoken, and the Komen foundation was forced to listen. On Friday they announced their decision to continue funding Planned Parenthood.

It’s pretty mind boggling, if you think about it. When else in history could one average person inform and motivate 500 people, whom can then go and do the same? Within 10 minutes, thousands and thousands of people from all around the country can share information. It’s crazy.

I’m not really the type to go out in the streets and rally for a cause. But if simply sharing something on my Facebook page can get hundreds of people to care about something as much as I do, I’m all for that. When I read something that makes me happy, or sad, or angry, I make a conscious effort to share it through social media, to put it out there again and to give others the opportunity to read it and maybe pass it along to their friends and followers.

Social media gives each of us the chance to share knowledge and perspective with others, and that’s pretty special.

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