There are a lot of negative stories in the press about social media. At the forefront of these are reported acts of cyber bullying on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When these involve children, it is especially worrying for parents and carers of kids in our community. There are, also, ‘so-called’ trolls out there in cyber land anonymously attacking people who are in the vanguard of our society, may they be celebrities, football stars or politicians. Social media provides a screen for those who wish to comment or pillory others without any real scrutiny of their actions. These failings, among others, are reported with relish by the mainstream media and social commentators. Social media saving lives, as a story, does not get much of a run.
The Internet Has Largely Undermined the Economic Foundation of Traditional Media
One thing needs to be remembered when assessing traditional media coverage. What is in it for the author or publisher? Everyone in this world is pushing their own wheel barrow. The Internet, and forms of it like social media, have largely undermined the economic foundation of newspapers, magazines, and to a lesser extent TV networks. Journalists have lost their jobs in the tens of thousands, all over the globe. You would not say that publishers, editors and journos are big fans of what the digital age has done to their professions and livelihoods. Their commentary and focus on the negative aspects of social media must be seen in light of this.
Social Media Campaign Fighting the Devastating Effects of Bush Fires in Australia
There are, however, many positive stories involving social media. Indeed, social media saving lives is not an uncommon occurrence. In Australia, during bush fire season, we regularly witness lives and homes being lost to the ravishes of fire. A social media campaign run for the NSW Rural Fire Service was able to double their communities on Facebook and Twitter, which allows them to inform their followers of dangers via these social media platforms during bush fire season. This means many more people being instantly informed of a bush fire’s status in relation to their own homes. More of these kinds of approaches, utilising the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook for crisis communication, have been taken by emergency services throughout Australia in recent years.
Social Media in the Management of Natural Disasters Globally
Social media in the management of natural disasters and in war zones has been highlighted globally in the last decade. Digital technology in the form of mobile phones and social media has been a life saver in many third world countries undergoing natural disasters and armed conflicts. In the Arab Spring in Egypt, parties from all sides utilised social media to communicate with their members and the world’s media. Social media is not some silver bullet in these terrible events and atrocities, but it is providing a platform for rapid mass communication during crises. Social media saving lives is definitely on the global agenda.