Social media: More important than ever right now
We're in the midst of a crisis that's leaving people lonely, disconnected and worried about their future.
Andrew Trotman, MD of It's Gone Viral, shows why social media means so much now, when people are divided and isolated, but looking for ways to help each other.
The world is facing a monumental challenge that none of would have conceived possible just a few short weeks ago. Times are scary and uncertain but one of the positives to come out of this so far have been people's ability and willingness to come together and help each other.
We’re always told that we live busy, selfish and fragmented lives, but the way individuals and businesses have stepped up to help their communities has been nothing short of fantastic.
Social media has played a massive part in that. We’ve seen it before in other dire situations, but its ability to keep us all connected can’t, and shouldn’t be, underestimated. The lockdown has created a new time of forced isolation and the possibility of that becoming a strain on our mental health is real.
Our options to interact, mix and socialise have been taken away. No-one would argue with the reasoning, but that doesn’t stop it having a monumental impact.
Connecting the world
Having the ability to go online and see first-hand that you’re not alone and not in your own bubble of struggle is huge. It’s been inspirational to see the world connecting, sharing positive stories, tips and ways to get through this. That’s when social media comes into its own; when it truly connects, motivates and enhances our lives. It should be a force for good.
Of course, the inspirational efforts of Captain Tom Moore stand head and shoulder above everything else. At the time of writing, he has raised over £26 million (and secured a number one record!) which is nothing short of staggering. Social media has played a massive part in both helping to share his endeavours, and bringing the country together as we all supported him through every lap of his garden.
It is also allowing us all to share our respect and appreciation for the frontline workers in a direct and personal way. Having the ability to show our gratitude is fantastic and life-affirming - both for the general public and the people who we want to communicate with, including NHS staff, delivery drivers, supermarket workers and carers.
We might feel isolated but even in the depths of the lockdown we're still one world and one community, so having the option to go on social media and share our feelings, thoughts, concerns, fears and gratitude makes that easier to remember, and it keeps a sense of togetherness at the front of our minds.
However, on the flip side, it’s essential that we are all careful about how we use platforms during the coronavirus crisis; especially when it comes to information overload.
The sheer amount of information out there, including ‘fake news', is now greater than ever. This quite naturally leads to overthinking and different forms of anxiety. It’s not helped by the fact that we’re only allowed to leave the house once a day for exercise. Our perspectives and realities are completely out of sync.
Publishers now more than ever have a huge responsibility to provide accurate information and stories to their followers. I’ve been thoroughly disheartened to see stories that are clearly designed to scaremonger, get clicks and ultimately drive profits. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen but it’s tough for people to know who they can trust.
With a fast and ever-changing situation like this, it’s important that everyone does their bit to put wellbeing and a healthy state of mind above revenues. It’s about ethics, not profits.
The importance of truth and accessibility
On a practical level, publishers and platforms should only be sharing verified and truthful stories or video content. They need to be fact-checking everything - only reporting news that they think can be helpful and positive and not focussing on negative clickbait. They must also make information easy for people to access and digest such as creating infographics that collate official updates from the government.
In a time where we need to band together as one, initiatives like Instagram’s Stay At Home story feature, which encourages users to share their videos of them following government guidelines, and Facebook’s Information Centre, can directly encourage social behaviours that will ultimately save lives.
I also passionately believe that it’s important publishers bring some kind of respite to their followers. Sharing a story or moment that is inspirational and motivating can add so much value to someone’s day.
The British public’s ability to laugh and maintain its sense of humour as a coping mechanism - even in dark times - should never be underestimated. Now more than ever, people still want to see things that brighten their day and lift their mood. The surge in livestream exercise sessions like HIIT, pump, yoga, meditation - and obviously Joe Wicks’ insanely popular PE classes - has also been a game-changer. They’re all about positivity and are designed to help.
It’s easy to get hung up about the negatives that can be associated with social media, but during this time of isolation people need to see the benefits of how to engage with it in a healthy way - especially if we see someone struggling or being unusually distant, as small gestures can go a very long way.
We’re all in this together, after all.