Safe to say, 2016 is a year that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
We’ve seen a country divided by Brexit, the Pound drop to a 31-year low against the Dollar and Donald Trump elected as America’s next president. Not to mention the Toblerone fiasco.
In a year that has, at times, left many downtrodden and disappointed, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the negative.
But was it really all bad?
We decided to take a closer look at 2016 in search of some news that would turn our frowns upside down. What we found, was that this year was actually packed full of pretty amazing moments – many of which were driven by social media.
Here’s some of our favourite times that social media made the world a better place in recent years.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Back in the heady days of Summer 2015, many of us were logging into Facebook with trepidation as we wondered, ‘Is today the day?’
For those who managed to miss the global phenomenon that took the world of social media by storm, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a viral fundraising campaign on behalf of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA) to fund research into the disease.
True to its name, the Ice Bucket Challenge involved making a donation to ALSA before uploading a video to Facebook of you tipping a bucket of ice cold water over your head and nominating a handful of your soon to be ex-friends to partake in the fun.
The challenge resurfaced once again in the Summer of 2016 and, as a result of funds raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge, groundbreaking research was able to be carried out to identify a new gene, NEK1, which now ranks highly amongst the most common genetic factors associated with ALS.
Thanks to a social media campaign fuelled by a perplexing mix of good-will and thinly veiled passive-aggression towards our Facebook friends, we are now closer than ever to finding an effective treatment.
Just as we’d put to rest our once fervent ambitions of ‘Catching Them All’, a new app exploded onto the scene which saw swathes of plucky would-be PokeTrainers head out once more in search of their dream.
Once confined to the grainy Gameboy screens of our youth, we could now find Pokemon sat next to us at the bus stop, in the supermarket or hanging out at the local park.
The immense popularity of the app gave rise to some pretty cool stuff, such as players banding together to place lure modules around hospitals so that sick children could join in on the fun. As the app grew increasingly popular, it started to garner more traction on social media which, in turn, meant more sick children got to catch their favourite Pokemon.
Besides prising us all away from Netflix and getting us outdoors, the app also gave rise to Facebook groups which connected PokemonGo trainers with one another. In cities all over the world, tens, hundreds and even thousands of PokemonGo trainers met up to play organised sessions together.
Hundreds Gathered for the Funeral of a WWII Veteran
Social media also played a big part in one of the most heart-warming stories of the year. When World War II veteran, Harry Arrowsmith, died at the age of 91, he left behind his sister as his only living relative. Worried that there would be a small turnout at the funeral, a concerned neighbour made an online plea for people to attend.
It wasn’t long before the post went viral, and on the day more than 250 people turned up to pay their respects.
The word Instagram has become synonymous with a picture perfect lifestyle. Everyday we are inundated with a stream of #Gains, #OOTD (Outfit Of The Day to those not in the know) and, in particular, #FoodPorn.
Yet for millions of people around the world, the luxury of warm, clean and healthy food is something they may never experience. One organisation committed to helping people living in extreme poverty and hunger is Colombia based food bank, ABACO.
In 2014, ABACO ran a clever social media fundraising campaign which sought to flip the idea of #FoodPorn on its head and raise mass awareness about a very important cause.
For their #MealForShare campaign, ABACO created Instagram profiles for people living in extreme poverty, which they used to post pictures of the food they had to eat on a daily basis. Followers of the campaign could donate to the cause by selecting to purchase meals for the amount they wanted to contribute.
As a result of funds raised, ABACO were able to donate over an incredible 185 thousand tons of food to people in need.
Burger King Baby
Katheryn Deprill was abandoned in a Burger King bathroom when she was just an hour old. At the age of 17, lacking the financial means to raise a child, her birth mother made the difficult decision to leave her newborn baby somewhere she knew she would be found and cared for.
27 years later, Katheryn posted a Facebook status reaching out to her birth mother in hope of making contact. The post went viral quickly – receiving over 33,000 shares.
One of the people who saw the post was Katheryn’s mother, Cathy, who upon seeing the post contacted an attorney to arrange a meeting with her daughter.
The two were reunited shortly after – all thanks to the power of social media.
In March 2014, a mother from Michigan USA was making preparations for her son, Colin’s, upcoming 11th birthday. Raising the subject with Colin, who is disabled, she was heartbroken to hear that he didn’t think there was any point throwing a party, because he didn’t have any friends.
Colin’s mother turned to Facebook for help and created the page ‘Colin’s Friends’ with the hope of soliciting Happy Birthday wishes, positive thoughts and encouraging words that would cheer her son up.
About a week and a half later, Colin had over 60,000 friends on Facebook. A few weeks after that, after hearing about the page, Good Morning America hosted a birthday party for Colin in Times Square.
To date, the ‘Colin’s Friends’ page has over 2.1 million fans – which speaks volumes about the power of social media to connect people all over the world and, especially, provide a sense of community to people who may otherwise feel alone.
Too often social media, particularly branded social media, is criticised for negatives such as reinforcing negative body image, perpetuating false or unreliable information and for decreasing face to face communication skills.
We are living in an age where, thanks to social media, we can now share messages and connect with people all over the world at the click of a button.
Through the proliferation of trending hashtags, we have seen and continue to see that social media is a formidable force for driving social change and sharing positive messages.
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