As an avid social media user, I am still by no means ignorant of the negative impact that digital technologies can have on societies, communities and individuals when it is misused and abused.
I understand and sympathise with those who have been harmed by it. Those who have been and are victims of cyber-bullying, those who have been subjected to predatory advances, young people who have lost themselves in narcissism by using platforms such as Instagram for superficial self-gratification.
I also commend people such as Essena O’Neill, whose brave initiative ‘Let’s Be Game Changers’ arose from the pain she experienced through the ‘fame’ and popularity she gained as a model on social media. If you haven’t yet, read her story here, it’s an intriguing one.
So yes, I am not ignorant at all to the above. I just prefer to focus my energies on the positive social change that can result from inspired, well-intentioned social campaigns. This is where technology can truly shine, where creative ideas, engaging stories and uplifting messages can be shared. Where philanthropy can be on each and every one of our agendas, not only because of greater accessibility but also because of greater awareness which evokes that bead of compassion that lies within all of us.
This is social change in the online sphere that is powerful enough to generate social change in the real world in which we live.
I recently stumbled on a perfect example of this during an evening of scouring Instagram for inspiration. I discovered a beautiful organisation called Sole Hope which works to alleviate foot-related diseases which greatly impact children and communities in Uganda, by offering medical relief, education, jobs and financial support.
Founders Asher and Dru Collie felt called to do something after watching a YouTube video on the devastating impact on ‘jiggers’ which breed in the feet of African children causing them great pain, leading to disease and paralysis. Theirs is an inspired story of wanting to create positive social change.
What forms part of the Sole Hope project is the idea that an old pair of jeans can be recycled to produce a pair of denim closed-toed shoes that an African child can wear to protect their feet from further infection. What a truly powerful message in that what seems so common and basic to our everyday lives, can in fact make an enormous difference to the lives of those in impoverished communities. How very blessed we are.
I immediately followed the Sole Hope Instagram account upon seeing the work that they do through the inspired and moving imagery in their posts. I’ll admit that some of the photos began to appear blurry through my tears. How amazing that social media has the ability to connect us so instantaneously to such humanitarian causes. How even the smallest organisations now have the opportunity to raise awareness without the necessary funds required to activate large scale above-the-line advertising campaigns.
Sole Hope are one of many fantastic organisations around the world creating social change and I am grateful that through social media, I was able to learn about their story. It is social for the sole yes, but also for the soul.
In this digital age, we have the power to communicate with more people than ever before, so why not use this power to empower others? There is only so much blame we can attribute to the physical constructs of media and technology, the rest is up to us. How do we best serve the tools provided to us? How do we maximise their potential to generate constructive conversation, ideas and values? How do we as global citizens incite positive social change, both online and offline?