Social Media Can Save Lives and Here’s How

Social Media Can Save Lives and Here’s How

It’s November, which means it’s also Movember. So this month includes seeing your friends and colleagues with moustaches that look out of place, and (if you’re like me and you don’t shave anyway) the questions about why you’re participating even though you realized long ago that facial hair is the greatest gift man has been given (it helps in looking contemplative and my chin is warm in the winter, can you say that?)

But in all seriousness, campaigns like Movember are an opportunity to gain awareness and donations for charity. And with social media, these campaigns have seen remarkable growth. Perhaps one of the best examples is the Ice Bucket Challenge, which was done in support of ALS research and awareness, that filled our Facebook feeds back in 2014. In Canada, the drive brought in over 16 million dollars through 260 000 participants, and in America over 100 million dollars was raised in August alone (a 97 million dollar increase from August 2013).

Before the rise of social media, charities could only reach you by phone or by sending physical mail. This mail usually included a picture of an impoverished child, a letter from the organization’s CEO, and inexplicably a nickel (accompanied with the line that even five cents could save a life, and the resulting question of “THEN WHY ARE YOU SENDING IT TO ME?”).

unicefwastednickel
There are starving children in Africa and you send money to me? That’s just cold.

They do still use these mediums, but on social media these organizations can fill your feeds directly. Because of how often some of us check our social media profiles we can see their messages far more often then we would by receiving mail, especially in emergency situations, and we can be exposed to their advertising that is tailored to us by FaceBook and Twitter. Online they can direct us towards their own websites where we can get more information on their causes and donate immediately. In emergency situations this could actually save a life.

And those 260 000 Canadian participants for the Ice Bucket Challenge? It would have taken months of expensive TV commercials to get them, but social media brought them in (and their donations) in a month. Videos garnered thousands of views in hours, especially with celebrity appearances, and were short and informative enough to grab the attention of millions. This is not to mention to social pressure of being publicly nominated to do the challenge yourself.

And the result? Funded by the donations, researchers discovered a gene that is linked to the disease. Without social media, this may not have happened for years. So go ahead, procrastinate on FaceBook because you may just be saving a life (some ground breaking research required).

Daniel Salé

Sources

ALS Association:

http://www.alsa.org/news/media/press-releases/ice-bucket-challenge-082914.html

http://www.alsa.org/news/media/press-releases/significant-gene-discovery-072516.html

ALS Canada:

http://www.als.ca/en/news/awareness/als-societies-across-canada-commit-10-million-als-research-and-announce-new

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2 thoughts on “Social Media Can Save Lives and Here’s How

  1. This is a really interesting post. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a huge hit online, but I’m always weary of whether it will continue to have a long-lasting impact. At this point, even though the challenge is over, the donations keep rolling in (which is weird considering it was a fad). But, will the challenge live on?

    My own research has led me to the conclusion that online fundraising, particularly Facebook, is not successful, YET (I conducted a research paper on fundraising online earlier this semester). But there is significant potential for growth in this area. At the moment, social media platforms still dominate in awareness as opposed to fundraising.

    Like

    1. While people may not be participating in the challenge anymore, I think it lives on (and this will sound incredibly corny) in the change it made to the conversation. Before the challenge I had no idea what ALS was, and I imagine that’s the same for many others, and while I’m not going to pretend I’m on expert on the subject I do know much more about it now.

      As for awareness v. fundraising, I whole heartedly agree.

      Liked by 1 person

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