For one, there’s opportunity to learn about people from all over the world and connect with people from different walks of life even in one’s own community. There’s plenty to learn and plenty of people to engage with. This openness to other cultures and experiences breeds empathy and understanding, plus offers a type of education that can’t be obtained in traditional schools.
Social media also offers a way to contribute to the world in various ways. People can share information to spread the word about things that are worth talking about, they can launch campaigns to get people involved in local and international problems and put efforts forward to take action to solve those problems, and they can contribute to charities and funding projects that are meaningful.
On an individual basis, people may not be changing the world by way of social media. But for those who recognize these amazing opportunities that social media presents them with, the combined efforts pack a punch. Petitions from social media have turned to law, they’ve prompted action, they’ve made real change in the world. Fundraisers have helped everything from an individual recovering from a medical procedure and dealing with the financial fallout from it, to helping bring much needed resources to underprivileged societies. The reach is literally global.
The ball is in the user’s court, every user. The world is within reach, but how will the opportunity be seized? Often times, comments on popular posts show the clash between users of different backgrounds. But that negativity gives a lasting impression that spreads. If people take this opportunity to engage and learn and spread kindness, the world becomes a more productive and more friendly place.
Kindness Doesn’t Work Alone
Lucky for the users who believe in kindness and using social media for friendliness and positivity, they’re not alone. Tech gurus behind platforms like Twitter and Facebook are aware of the trends behind their services, and they’re paying attention.
For example, Facebook conducted a study in 2013 that analyzed over three million posts. They separated the posts by whether the content was positive, negative, or neutral. What they found was exactly what was covered above: when people see positive posts, they post more positive things. In other words, negativity breeds negativity, and positivity breeds positivity. Positivity also leads people to be more active on Facebook, and to engage more with their friends.
Twitter, on the other hand, found that their algorithm is being taken advantage of with negative posts. Twitter works by showing users posts that it thinks users will want to see the most, and these posts are ones that have been engaged with the most with replies, retweets, and favorites. However, as any user on Twitter can attest to- Twitter users like to argue and are likely to engage with something that they disagree with. This results in negative and controversial posts, even if they contain misinformation, to be projected to a wider user base (even if the truth is more positive).
The fact that Twitter and Facebook are using resources to look into how their users are using their social media platforms, and how their algorithms for the media feeds affects the user’s experience, is good news. It means that these tech giants are paying attention. Presumably, they want users to have a more positive experience. If positive experiences result in more activity, it stands to reason that they’ll do whatever they can to make their platforms more friendly, less toxic places for users to be.
It’s understandable that associating kindness and positivity with social media isn’t always an easy connection to draw. After all, social media breeds trolls, harassment opportunities, and even negativity from people that matter. It’s easy to get lost in this labyrinth of negativity, and many often do.