Social media helps define our culture, world, legacy

Maddie Dorman, Editor in Chief

If you’re not completely awestruck by the power of social media, you’re not paying attention. Social media has permeated the fabric of today’s society; but contrary to popular belief, this may not be a bad thing. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat are changing the world.

In the 21st century, no platform for enacting social change and unifying people to rally for a cause has been more efficient; I experienced this first-hand last month. While scrolling through Tumblr, I saw a post about a national moment of silence for victims of police brutality. By clicking a link to Facebook, I found out where and when it would take place, and what to wear. Fast-forward a couple of hours, and my brother, my best friend and I were standing at Civic Center Park, holding hands with strangers and bowing our heads in remembrance.

The National Moment of Silence (see #NMOS14) was just one event in the massive movement started in Ferguson, Missouri for justice in the police shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Protesters in the city have put social media to incredibly effective use, using smartphones to record the allegedly inappropriate and excessive responses by riot control and police. Demonstrators have also utilized Twitter to alert each other to meeting places and times of protests, share information about civil liberties concerning police and even to organize distribution of blankets as the weather turned cold. As a result, the citizens of Ferguson and the country have been forced to pay attention and listen.

As the demonstrations in Missouri progressed, something amazing happened. Suddenly, protesters in Ferguson were being tweeted at by Palestinian protesters in Gaza with advice on teargas avoidance and relief, as well as words of encouragement. It was incredible; not only was social media connecting people in the same city, but was also connecting people half of a world away.

Another, closer-to-home example was experienced by all of us last year. Our entire community utilized social media not for justice, but to come together and support each other last December. In the special edition of The Herald from that time, one of the most popular spreads was centered on the social media aspect of our experience. Other schools and communities used platforms like Twitter to reach out and offer us their support and condolences, and there 4,800 posts (and counting) under the hashtag #WarriorStrong on Instagram.

Social media is changing the way we interact with people, no question. Because of social sites and applications, there are tons of ways to connect: videos, photographs, texts, blog posts, instant messages, comments, hashtags and beyond. Our generation and the ones to come are composed of people who are technologically literate and endlessly curious.

These sites are changing the way that we think and the way that we live; we are constantly receiving new information, new opinions and new ideas. And people are realizing how powerful this makes them.

No matter how hard China tries to censor and block social media sites, demonstrators in Hong Kong are finding ways around them right this moment. No matter how badly some in America want the people of Ferguson to quiet down, they will keep uploading.

If we wanted, we could change the world with a hashtag.