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Can we use social media to create real change in the world?

Online activism is often disregarded as an ineffective method to fight for social change.  Many people are missing the big picture around these new communication technologies and their potential of being powerful tools inspiring “real-life” change. Every action that we take in our lives starts off as a thought before it can materialize into something more tangible. We are living in an age of unprecedented democratization of information, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become major driving force behind it.

Changes to the Facebook algorithms : Good or Bad news ?

Facebook has announced that there will be new changes to the news feed. Essentially you will be shown  more posts from friends and family, and less posts from brands and media. Steven Colbert was also worried about the fact that he’ll be seeing even more baby photos on his timeline :

But isn’t this good news after all ? Doesn’t this sounds like more power to the people? A change in this direction could be a positive one, if people consciously start to post more about relevant information and less about trivia and ego tripping. Each of us should understand that they their online activity can have important consequences. If we want social media to be a force of social change we have to use it such.  Since each of us has its own media platform, we should gain a basic understanding about how these social media websites work, and we shouldn’t underestimate their potential impact.

Understand how social media works

When you see a post and you find the information in it meaningful in any way, know that your action or inaction will be very important. If you would just scroll down, Facebook will think that you didn’t enjoy the information and this will make it less likely that the post will be shown to other people following this page. When you choose to interact with a post  by liking and especially commenting on it or sharing it,  you are giving this information a potential to reach others. This will make the post to be visible to other people who follow the page, and it will make more posts from that page visible to you in the future. You might not think of your friend’s list as an big or important audience, but they are, and you are one of the few people who can reach them by sharing posts on your timeline.  And yes, most of your friends will probably not interact with your posts, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t see them. The mere exposure to critical information can affect even the most rigid minds over time.

Don’t Underestimate the value of your interactions

Many people underestimate and downplay the power of information. But information leads to awareness, and awareness can trigger action. This is why advertisement costs a lot of money, because as annoying as they can be, the exposure to information is effective at influencing people’s behavior.

On More Trees Less Assholes we use our social media profiles to share with you the environment related the content that we create (visuals and articles), as well as other valuable content that we find on other digital platforms. If we would want to reach our whole audience with a certain post, we would have to give Facebook a lot of money in order “to boost” the posts visibility. Your interactions boost the posts visibility organically,  without us having to pay Facebook literally thousands of dollars. Big companies have the means and are willing to invest their money to promote their products and services. If it was only up to them, they’d love to see social media working just like the traditional media, where only the most affluent can spread information.  Think of your interactions doing advertisement, except that instead of promoting a product you are giving a voice to the causes that actually matter most to you.

We face a choice : we’ll either allow social media to become a place for trivial, narcissistic information and corporate advertisement or we’ll understand the power and responsibility that comes with those powerful communication tools and we’ll use them to spread knowledge and awareness and inspire action.

 

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