Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Power of Social Media

I often say this to my daughters, using my best Darth Vader voice and shaking my fist: "Never underestimate the power of Twitter."

Social media has given a voice to those who are otherwise introverted or are afraid to speak his or her voice in public. It has called the underdogs to action, it has started revolutions in oppressed societies, and has invoked random acts of kindness.

Social media has created friendships where some may otherwise have never taken place.

I have been using social media for about four years (more than five, if you include my blogging) and I have met some fascinating people from around the globe. I place met in italics because I have only done so in a virtual sense. Of the hundreds of people that I know through social media, I have only encountered a small percentage in real life, face to face.

Of the people that I have met in real life, there is not a single one of them that I regret meeting. Not one. Many, I would say, have become friends. Some, good friends.

Social media has presented opportunities that I would have otherwise missed: festivals, concerts, meetups, photography opportunities, and more. If not for Twitter, I would have missed the soft opening of Mill Street in Ottawa. I may not have become tight with the management and staff.

Not everything that happens on Twitter is positive. Some people become the targets for haters, bullies, and psychos. The misogynistic outlashes in the UK recently over the bid to see Jane Austen on the £10 note have become ludicrous. The threats that have been made to women journalists just show how Twitter can be used for evil instead of for good.

A bomb threat that was received by UK journalist, Laurie Penny, on August 5.

Hats should also be taken off to those who have been attacked on Twitter but have chosen not to be victims and have used social media to cast a light on the haters, who have chosen to stand up, rather than hide.

Thankfully, Twitter is mostly a safe place in which to interact with good-hearted people. To illustrate the random acts of kindness, I will demonstrate how a simple statement led to a special delivery.

Yesterday, about an hour after arriving at work, not having eaten, I tweeted a banal statement.

Typically, a statement like that would be ignored, or, at best, would stir one or two quick responses. But in the course of about three hours, I was in a full-fledged conversation about bacon and food deliveries with four people in Ottawa. One of my wonderful Twitter friends, Mary, who has only met me once, more than a year ago, convinced her husband, Gary, to get dressed, go to the nearest Starbucks, and bring me a bacon and egg sandwich.

Two people actually crossed provincial lines to bring me bacon.

Mmm... bacon!

Who does that?

Great people, that's who!

Thanks again, Mary and Gary! You made my day.

I certainly don't tweet in the hopes of personal gain. I would never have carried on a Twitter conversation about being hungry if I actually thought that doing so would have yielded in a free breakfast. I'm not opportunistic.

I do see how Twitter can bring out the best of people and it makes me glad for the community in which I find myself.

In times of conflict and hatred, remember the people out there who can make the days worthwhile. And never underestimate the power of social media.

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