There is no doubt that social media lends itself to negative behaviour. The inadvertent anonymity it offers makes it ripe for abuse from spineless, cowardly bullies. Its advent represented a revolution for stalkers. Imagine how they must have rejoiced when they realised they could now invade their prey’s personal space from the comfort of their own (smelly, dark, closed-curtained?) bedrooms.
Social media doesn’t just aid people with existing behavioural problems. It unleashed a whole new wave of disciples. I mean, it’s fairly normal these days to keep tabs on your ex via Facebook, but the news is full of cases where dumpees have taken revenge on dumpers via social media, whether it be posting illicit photos or other, equally cringe-worthy actions of public shaming.
Social media represents the evolution of bullying – providing a platform for constant psychological torture and creating a cyber-hell that transcends into real life. From the vicious trolling on Twitter, to the teens coerced into suicide via Facebook and Ask.FM, to ‘catfishing’ (? fodder for another blog methinks!), we are relentlessly bombarded by accounts of hideous (in)human behaviour facilitated by social media.
There is no doubt that, in the wrong hands, social media is a powerful force of evil, BUT(and you’ll be delighted to hear it’s a great big, shiny, BUT) it has also shown itself to be an equally powerful force for good.
For a recent example of this, just google ‘Dancing Man’. In a nutshell, hideous fat-shaming bullies posted photos of a man dancing on his own to 4chan (an anonymous bulletin board) with the caption: “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing.”
As you can see, in the first photo, the man is dancing happily, while in the second he looks downtrodden and embarrassed. So far, so despicable, and an example of social media at its worst. BUT (it’s another shiny one!), rather than join the bullies in their persecution of an innocent man, most people have felt sorry for him. A group of female dancers, lead by Cassandra Fairbanks, started an online campaign to find him. Their aim? To fly him out to LA to dance with them, thereby sticking two fingers up to bullies everywhere.
The online search, spearheaded by the hashtag #FindDancingMan quickly went viral and after just 12 hours, the man got in touch with the following tweet:
Now, he has been sent a VIP invite to dance party in LA with 2000 women and Moby and Pharrell DJing.
A similarly heart-warming tale is that of disabled pensioner, Alan Barnes. The partially-sighted 67 year old was left with a broken collar bone after being mugged outside his home in Low Fell, Gateshead. The distressed pensioner was scared about staying in his home because he no longer felt safe there.
After reading about his story, kind-hearted local beautician Katie Cutler set up a fundraising page to help Alan with the cost of moving to a new home. Katie had hoped to raise a few hundred pounds, but by the power of social media, her appeal went viral and thousands of pounds poured in from around the world. She ended up handing over a whopping £324k to the pensioner, whilst simultaneously restoring his faith in human kindness.
On a smaller scale, a Brighton blogger and newly-single mum who tweeted about not being able to afford any toys for her 3 young daughters last Xmas, was staggered by the results. In her own words:
‘…strangers who had their own children and family to buy for, yet took the time, and budget to pick presents for my daughters (and me!), wrapped and sent in time for Christmas. I don’t think a more generous thing will ever happen to me in my life and I am humbled by the milk of their kindness.’
Click here to read more of her story.
So, how’s that for some heart-warming examples of the kindness of strangers, expedited by social media? Sadly, there will always be wrong uns who choose to go over to the dark side, but let’s take heart in the fact that it’s not their stories that the global social media community chooses to celebrate and share.