On April 15, many of us learned about the tragedy in Boston through social media. We began seeing reports on Twitter or caught comments from friends on Facebook. As details emerged, the social stratosphere lit up. Stories were shared from the scene, runners let family know they were all right, prayers were sent to the victims. Like a mosaic, a million social media posts combined to create a bigger picture.
It was a reminder of the value and power of social media. This medium that we so often criticize and make fun of nowadays showed us once again why it has become such an important part of our lives. News was transmitted across the world in an instant. Friends had a way to check in with each other rather than worry endlessly. People everywhere had a forum to express their sympathies and emotions. It reminded us why this medium matters.
The Meaning and Value of Social Media
For businesses and brands, it’s easy to be skeptical about social media. You read article after article about the importance of connecting with customers on Facebook. Spend endless hours trying to craft a strategy to create more online leads. Pour over data trying to discover where your audience goes and what they do online.
That’s all well and good—and it’s certainly important. But let’s put all that aside for a moment and talk about social media from a human perspective. Let’s take a look at the three real reasons social media matters:
1. We Are All Compelled to Share
As humans, we have thoughts and feelings—and we are intuitively compelled to share our thoughts and feelings. We don’t want to let them stew and simmer. We want to let them out. We want to inform people. Social media gives us a place to do just that. No matter what your gender, race, class or location, social media gives everyone a voice. It’s a platform of expression, a place to unpack your thoughts and feelings.
2. We Are All Here to Help
It gets lost in the sea of negative comments and social bullying, but most people are on social media for positive purpose. Most people want to connect with others and offer them something of value. Likewise, most businesses and nonprofits are not striving to annoy or bother people. They want to help people who need their products or services. Social media gives us a place to find each other and help each other out.
3. We Are All In This Together
Tragedies like the one in Boston remind us we all share this world together. When something happens in one place, it ripples outward and affects us all. When you see an endless stream of tweets from people sending their thoughts and prayers, you remember how connected we all are. We may be navigating through different lives, but we’re all sharing the same time and space. We are all part of the same big picture.
Using Social Media to Illuminate the Future
One final thought to take with you today: Thinking about the great benefits, power and responsibility that social media has bestowed on us, it’s important to remember the words of newsman Edward R. Murrow in his “Wires and Lights in a Box” speech. He may have been speaking about television at the time, but the same message easily applies to the Internet and social media today: