We live our lives played out on social media these days. Now if I want to talk to a friend, I just check Facebook and see how her life is going. Problem solved – and I go back to tweeting about my lunch. I check in to places and tag other people, so other people on Facebook are jealous of what I am up to and wish they were invited. Twitter is responsible for 175 million tweets every day throughout 2012, and that is a lot of information being shared.
This is the downside of social media; the persistent downward spiral of face-to-face communication. It has made it entirely too easy for us to avoid actually ever speaking to someone. But there are some definite ups to the technology. Take, for example, lobbyists or other political groups that are looking to spread the word on an event, or an important milestone in their agenda. Social media is a surefire way to ensure that everyone on the Internet is informed. Here are a few examples of how an agenda moved through the social media-sphere quickly and made an impact (although exactly how much of an impact is arguably hard to measure).
The Gun Control Debate on Twitter
The debate over whether the country needs more or less gun control really ramped up after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, gun control tweets made up about 30 percent of all tweets in the US the week of the shooting. I would guess that a good portion of the other tweets that week were ones of sympathy and support as well.
Remember way back in the 2012 Presidential election we talked about the allegations that Mitt Romney was using fake Twitter followers to improve his numbers? Well – now Obama is the one under fire. According to Fox News, Obama supporters were using fake Twitter followers to send pro-gun control messages to members of Congress and bloggers. Whether or not the allegations are true, we can’t stress this enough: using fake followers may be a quick fix but it sure is not a long term strategy and it isn’t worth tainting your cause by using this strategy.
And Twitter isn’t the only place people are voicing their opinions on this highly-polarizing subject. I don’t know about you, but I have at least 25 friends on Facebook that post about practically nothing else, and most of what they are sharing are posts from special interest groups. It may annoy some, but it works, because it keeps that point-of-view in front-of-mind. Unless of course your friends are really overdoing it, in which case Facebook has a handy “hide from news feed” option.
The Supreme Court Takes on Proposition 8
On March 26, the Supreme Court heard arguments both for and against California’s Marriage Ban Proposition 8. This is of course, a hot button social issue that got a lot of play in social media. But the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay marriage organization, found a lot of success with its viral campaign. They asked supporters to change their profile photos to a red version of its traditional emblem- two yellow stripes on a blue background. The organization’s Facebook posts encouraging this change were shared more than 70,000 times.
Facebook released statistics that roughly 2.7 million Facebook profile photos were changed that day, which is a 120% increase from an average Tuesday. That doesn’t mean all 2.7 million people changed their profile supporting or opposing gay marriage, but it is possible that many were.
Conservatives Create Social Networking Site
A group of conservatives claiming that Facebook unfairly censors their posts got fed up, and created their own social networking site called The Tea Party Community. According to the site’s creators, The Tea Party Community had 50,000 members days before it even officially launched. The site is meant to be a place where conservative members can get together and share ideas and opinions. The site purposely mirrors much of the functionality of Facebook, as the creators didn’t want members to feel a learning curve when joining.
One of the upsides of creating a network that is clearly targeting one particular group of people: it will be very easy as an interest group to get your message heard. You can rest assured that if you want to share an opinion on social change that many of the members agree on – your ideas will go viral. The downside: there is less exchanging of differing opinions, but that may be exactly what the site’s creator were hoping for!
Before social media, ideas were still shared and people still fought over social issues. But now, we are seeing ideas spread farther and faster than ever before and then we also get to measure the spread of an idea. Social media has been the catalyst for other big issues – remember the Arab Spring? Twitter was a big tool for organizers of the revolutions in those countries. So while we all may have a love/hate relationship with social media, one cannot overlook the real pros of these tools in our lives to help spread a message, especially a hot-button issue that almost everyone in the world has an opinion about! Now if I could just figure out how to get my followers to really get fired up about custom technology …