We all know that social media has all of this power and influence. I mean, social media IS THE Conversation Currency of today. Just ask your teenager, but if you don’t believe them listen to this:
- There are 1 Billion people on social media
- There are 5 Billion Likes a Day
- 500 Million Tweets are tweeted a day
We all know about social media’s negative sides; like how our children have lost the art of communication, how cyber bullies now have a place to thrive, and how we all have so-called friends that aren’t really our friends at all. A 2013 study carried out by Michigan university even said Facebook could actually be making us miserable. It’s not to say that I don’t agree with those implications in at least some ways, but the point for me is that we can’t forget about the good it has done.
Surely something as ‘powerful’ and ‘influential’ as social media can be channeled to affect positive change. Just last week for Mental Health Awareness Week we saw cyberspace buzzing with positive affirmations around the globe. World Mental Health Australia created an initiative on their www.1010.org.au website where users could make a mental health promise for themselves for the year, along with a photo of themselves or via an avatar created by the website, for posting onto the Promise Wall. During the week more than 12,000 Australians posted a promise onto the Promise Wall to channel positivity around mental health awareness and available treatments.
My father suffered from anxiety during many periods of his adult life, in an era where mental illness was simply never spoken of. He and many others quietly took some time off from work, often experiencing periods of social isolation while they managed their condition privately.
Social media, as a matter of fact, has been one of the vehicles that has enabled the world to now SPEAK FREELY about mental health as an issue, and the CONVERSATIONS it generates enable people suffering from mental illnesses to NORMALISE them, to ACCEPT THEY NEED HELP and get help FINDING IT.
As with everything related to dealing with potentially negative situations, there are some guidelines. My tips are:
- Be POSITIVE – your audience is well aware of the negativity around their situation
- Promote the OUTCOME – not the pain we know they are already feeling
- DON’T SCARE the audience – they are already scared
- IDENTIFY – The Black Dog Institute is already working with the CSIRO to develop a tool that isolates potentially suicidal language on Twitter so that the discussions can be tracked and intervention provided in time
- OFFER HELP CONTINUOUSLY – be always there to be there at the right time
- APPEAL TO FRIENDS & LOVED ONES of sufferers as they are likely to be actively open to solutions
- USE HASHTAGS – these are very useful tools for collating information into categories where they can start CONVERSATIONS and be found easily – #bipolar #addiction #hugsnotdrugs
Of course, there is no one magic bullet for curing mental illness, addiction, violence or any other social challenge. And we all know that any single communication channel is only one in a sum of many moving parts. But surely the social media, that we have labelled as influential, dangerous and in many cases addictive, can also be acknowledged for its power and ability to do good.
I’m sure my Father would have thought so too. ‘In moderation of course’, he would have said.