Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been attributed with, literally, changing the way the world communicates. They’ve connected people from across the world and given a voice to the voiceless. These sites provide ways for everyone from celebrities to politicians to the average Joe to share their thoughts and reactions about world events instantaneously.
Just in the past year, social media has played a large part in numerous events, from the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan to the Casey Anthony trial.
Earlier this month the social media world again was in pandemonium in response to a controversial police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, which then led to the London riots.
While it was reported that some rioters used BlackBerry Messenger to organize, the highly extendable platforms of Twitter and Facebook have proved to be efficient ways for rallying cleanup organizers in the aftermath of the rioting. The @Riotcleanup Twitter page, for example, has gathered more than 80,000 followers and gives information to people who want to help. In addition, hashtags such as #londonriots and #riotcleanup began trending shortly after the riots, effectively promoting discussion and leading to disaster response and volunteerism.
Last spring we saw social media play a crucial role in showing support and organizing relief for both the earthquakes in Japan and the tornadoes in Alabama.
Those affected by the tornadoes uploaded dozens of pictures and videos via mobile devices to spread information. Both local and national news stations shared info and updates via Twitter. The Salvation Army used Twitter to share info on how people could donate and also gave updates on its onsite volunteers. The story of this devastating storm was told through social media.
Similarly, social media users tweeted, updated Facebook statuses and used blogs to show support for those affected by Japan’s earthquakes. Because many phone networks were down, these sites also became a link for worried families to connect with loved ones. Google even developed a “Person Finder” web app to help families track victims.
Social media was again visible during the Casey Anthony trial as people of all ages and types were using Twitter and Facebook as a means of discussing their opinions. In fact, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts have been made in dedication to Caylee’s death. The hastag #caseyanthonytrial and #caseyanthonytrialverdict began trending worldwide. Even after the trail was over and the verdict out, the social media world did not quiet. The trial consumed online conversation. Time Magazine dubbed it the “Social Media Trial of the Century.”
These are the many uses of social media. We all know people who employ these tools only to share the “I’m in the kitchen making spaghetti for dinner” status update. But social media can and has been used for so much more. These platforms are now commonly used to share opinions, facts and reactions of current events. And as some of these examples demonstrate, this online discussion has led to action in the form of disaster donation and volunteerism.
Jodi Osmond recently graduated summa cum laude from UW-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and media communication and certification in digital arts and culture. As a social media and community engagement intern at Allée, she is eager to continue growing professionally while embracing her passion for public relations and social media.