There is no doubt that social media has changed our world culture. We share our thoughts, post our pictures, and speak our minds about topics we feel strongly about. I love social media—it has been a great way for me to connect with friends who live across the country and the world, a way for me to share the proud moments in my life (like pictures of my kids) as well as the struggles (like battling cancer). I have used social media to promote and raise awareness for causes I believe in—like raising money for the American Cancer Society through Relay For Life, and for gaining support and sponsorships for my precious village friends in Uganda. Yet, there are many mis-uses of social media and I want to take some time to comment on the uses and abuses of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and more.
I don’t like to get into controversial issues—I need to think and reflect before I speak, so I often shy away from political and religious discussions since they usually get heated and no one really wants to hear the other side anyway. However-- I am going to poke into this social media issue—knowing that many will disagree with me….and that is fine—I can take it---I would just hope that any comments would be respectful to all parties.
I am going to use the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as my main example. There is absolutely no doubt that this campaign has brought incredible awareness to this devastating disease. We all know that donations to ALS have skyrocketed over the past three weeks. I check the ALS Association website daily to see their progress and their commentary on this viral phenomenon. I have been affected by this disease two times in my life. One of my mom’s best friends died of it in her forties—I was young and didn’t know much about it, until I saw how it affected my mom’s friend, her family, and my mom. I learned more about it and understood it more clearly. Precious friends of ours are currently dealing with watching their husband and father suffer from ALS—and it affects every aspect of their lives.
I know there has been backlash about the campaign—we have all read about it, and people are still talking about it—that there is a drought in California, that it is “narcissistic”, and that it doesn’t really focus on the true facts of the disease. We read these commentaries and articles—we know there are people with different opinions and we know that we don’t all respond or react in the same way. With all that said—the good of the campaign as well as the bad---here are my comments regarding social media and the campaign:
First—the ice bucket challenge has raised awareness and raised millions of dollars, but I think that many (of course not all) people who are videotaping themselves and “nominating” others are truly missing the point. I wish the campaign had challenged people to say, “I am taking the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS AND I am also going to donate to research for this disease which currently has no cure.” Instead, many people say, “I have been nominated and if I don’t do this in 24 hours, I have to pay money.” Now I know that many people are taking the challenge AND donating which is great! But so many people (mainly teens) are saying simply “I was nominated for the Ice bucket challenge—I now nominate so, so and so….you have 24 hours—GO!” No mention of ALS, no mention of giving, just a video tape of themselves. It seems to me that this has turned into a popularity contest—as well as a way for scantily clad teens to post a selfie on FB and Instagram. ( I know that sounds very prudish, but so be it.) I wonder how many parents whose children have posted their own video have talked to their child about the disease, have taken them to a website to understand it better, have discussed the purpose of giving to a cause you believe in? I wonder how many adults have done the same?
If you want to read further about how a family dealing with ALS feels about the campaign, check out this blog—it was re-posted by my friend whose husband is battling ALS.
Now that I am finished with my ALS Ice Bucket example, I want to speak my mind about a few more things regarding social media. It seems many people forget about carefully choosing words when on FB or Twitter, or forget about the appropriateness of photos when on FB, Instagram or Snapchat. It seems we forget our moral filters and we forget that anything we post becomes public domain immediately!
I have seen horrific “cat fights” with hateful words play out on FB—conversations that clearly should be private and not public. I have observed mean and spiteful verbal abuse through comments on another person’s posts—people who don’t even know each other reacting to another person’s comments. You know-- there is something called “private messaging” on FB. I have seen people call out other people on FB instead of confronting the conflict face to face with something called WORDS—real, verbal words, that include tone and body language. In fact, this generation continues to communicate mainly through text and Twitter and are losing the art of true communication.
And then there are the “selfie” pictures taking over the feeds. I really do not need to see another bikini booty picture and neither do my boys. I love seeing “back to school” pictures, prom and graduation pictures, and family vacation photos. It is a great way to connect and see what my friends are doing. But when every other shot is a selfie and we see numerous posts and pictures within one single day, what is the point? We are raising a generation that stops to take pictures of everything because it is all about the creative caption and how many “likes” they get. For many of these kids, this equates to popularity and attention, when all that most kids really want is acceptance. Instead of living life to the full, we are busy taking pictures and putting up posts, with our noses to our phones or I pads, instead of being fully engaged with the people we are with.
Social media has been huge in helping me get the word out about my battle with cancer and my faith. I hear from so many people I have never met who tell me that my words and my blog have impacted them. Let’s keep social media a safe place to share thoughts and opinions, but in a respectful way. Let’s not forget that everything we write, every picture we post-- can either help, hinder, or hurt others. Let’s use social media as a means of community and connection and not a place for spite and malice. This blog post is simply a challenge to “think before you post.”