The Positives of Social Media: Spread of Information
November 8, 2013
Show of hands for those of us ever jolted awake at midnight by the Amber alert feature you didn’t know you had on your iPhone.
Do you remember how missing children used to be advertised? Milk cartons. Printouts at a police station or local businesses.
Now it comes directly to our smartphones as a push notification.
I saw a Facebook post a few weeks ago about a high school girl, Jessica, who went missing after school. She went missing at, maybe, 4pm.
By 10pm, the post about her disappearance had been shared 7,459 times. That number isn’t individuals who saw the post, but networks of individuals.
I’ve seen a wide range in statistics for the average number of friends on Facebook, but we’ll use 300 for illustration purposes. So if all 7,459 people who shared the post about Jessica had roughly 300 friends in their network, we can estimate that roughly
2,237,700 people read about this girl’s disappearance less than 6 hours after she went missing.
That’s a lot of people.
Even crazier? The information came to them. They didn’t get in their car, drive to the post office, and scour the missing-kids-posters wall. They were scrolling through mundane Facebook statuses.
It’s changed the way we receive news.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I sat down and watched an entire news program on TV, but I can tell you it hasn’t been in the past decade. I get all of my breaking news from Twitter, which sometimes means that I don’t know the full story but I know a really good joke about it.
Most of the time, social media is as fast, if not faster, than “regular” news outlets.
When the Aurora movie theater shooting happened, social media users were posting updates before the news crews could even arrive at the scene.
The Boston Marathon bombing unfolded simultaneously through both news outlets and eyewitness tweets.
But it’s not just news of national tragedies that break on social media – it can be random stuff.
Like Craig Breslow, MLB player, who learned of his trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks via social media.
And….a lot of other examples.
You get the point.
Social media is a powerful tool for spreading information. It reaches faster and farther than any communication method to date.
Yes, sometimes the information it spreads is bad. (hello, porn.)
But sometimes the information is really, really good.
The Power of Viral
From the comfort of my bed (like, may or may not have been wearing pants), I wrote a blog post about identity issues in a quantifiable, social media world.
That one post traveled around the world. It invaded homes and schools. It started conversations with hundreds of thousands of families.
That one post put me on a totally different path in life for the foreseeable future. It has taken me across the country to talk to schools and churches and parent meetings.
That one post has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the power of viral. (And of God, but we’ll get there.)
If we’re going to talk about how the spread of information through social media can be really, really good, we need to talk about Mark 16:15.
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
I have friends in Africa who don’t have an extra set of clothes, but they dang well have Facebook.
Kinda takes on a new meaning when you realize you can go into all the world from your couch, huh?
Here’s what excites me about social media:
We get to decide if our messages will bring light to the world or add to the filth – all with the push of a few buttons.
Social media can be cluttered, no doubt about that. There are far too many messages for us to take in every single one.
When you’re sharing a message of hope, or a post of joy, or a status that makes someone smile…it cuts through clutter. Those messages stand apart from the noise of the ordinary. (See also: currently trending story of the Pope embracing a severely disfigured man.)
And you and I – well, more importantly, you and I and your teens can be agents of change. On Twitter. Or Facebook. Or Tumblr. Or Instagram.
So whether it’s collaborating with friends on a homework assignment, or sharing an inspirational pep talk from Kid President, or posting a photo to brighten someone’s day, or passing along important news of a missing child, or….
Social media is powerful. Social media is information.
Let’s choose wisely what messages we spread.