Once each year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (at least here in the US), social media transforms for one day into a force for charitable giving. Founded in 2011 as a way to encourage people to add charitable giving to their online holiday shopping, #givingtuesday has grown into an international day of celebration of the good social media can do in our world. On #givingtuesday 2020, non-profits raised over $2.5 billion dollars in one day.
That is a sharp contrast to the rest of the year, when the internet and social media seem to be contributing to a growing sense of divide and loneliness in our lives. A recent Cigna survey found that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out (46% and 47%). Social media can connect us on a technical level, but are those interactions meaningful? While 80% of Americans use social media, Dr. Lara Otte, Psy.D. points out in Psychology Today that the connections on these platforms are “performative interactions rather than meaningful human conversations. ‘I like your post’ vs. ‘I understand something about you and want you to understand me too’.”
The fact remains that social media sites, especially those with worldwide participation like Facebook and Twitter, are fast, convenient ways to make some types of connections. Reaching customers who wouldn’t visit your physical storefront, meeting other people who have similar interests, and spreading awareness of social issues are all ways social media positively impacts our lives.
And we have seen a lot of good on social media in recent years. From fundraising for disaster relief after 2017’s Hurricane Harvey to the raising of student voices for change in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, social media has helped us share and process our collective trauma. The increase in platforms like Friended are intended to encourage dialogue, helping to turn social media into a tool that can easily be used for good. As Dr. Otte went on to say, “Social media, if used in the right way, has great potential to inspire and connect people.”
For most of us, social media is also an inescapable part of our daily lives. It's how we stay in touch with family, gossip with friends, entertain ourselves, and even follow the news. It's on our computers and in our pockets, but it's also on every product, advertisement, and storefront we encounter. Social media isn't going anywhere, and that means it's up to us to make it into a force for good. It's our superpower as a community.
WNC Superheroes started in 2019 with the idea that we can harness that ever-present nature of social media to do good for people in our community at a moment when they need it most and also when they may be least equipped to reach out. People facing a crisis point often cannot see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, making it even harder to say “I need help.”
When people see that their neighbors are in need, they may not always know how they can help. They may think “If I can only give a few dollars, will that really help anyone?” WNC Superheroes uses the incredible power of social media and crowdfunding to combine lots of small gifts to make an immediate, huge impact in the lives of people in our community -- right when they need it most.
Everyone needs a hero sometime in their lives. They need someone to save the day. Thanks to social media, we can all be that superhero.