Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 8 August 2015

Gemma Styles: Haters Gonna Hate - Why The Internet Is Positive For Us All

Gemma Styles: Haters Gonna Hate - Why The Internet Is Positive For Us All

The Debrief: You might think social media is either mean or vapid – here's why it's such a positive force for change

I received a message through my site this week that basically asked me why I write about social media rather than other topics that need to be discussed in the world. I suppose this is a reasonable question (aside from the fact that tech is the focus of this column!), but it did get me thinking about how social media is portrayed, and often brushed off as the vapid hobby of the youngest generations.

A lot of people in recent weeks have been writing about the negativity spouted online and taking a dim view on social networking sites – so this week I wanted to take the opportunity to refocus on just a few of the more positive uses of the internet. I’ve talked previously about online bullying and the toxic environment that some people decide to create for others, however, I would never wish this to gather more attention than all the lovely things that are said and done online every single day. 

While it might be very convenient to sign up for newsletters about cats (here’s looking at you, Buzzfeed) and alerts when those really good sandals have come back in stock – there are many other beneficial and potentially life-changing things that you can sign up to online. The internet has made it so much easier to get involved with charitable causes. In a few clicks you can register with some great organisations; I am already a supporter of the NHS Blood and Transplant service (you can sign up to donate blood here) and have recently also signed up to the Anthony Nolan register, which helps to match up donors with blood cancer patients… after seeing their #IGiveASpit campaign on Twitter. A good cause AND a pun? Yay for you, social media.

Continuing on the theme of lists; the rise and success of online petitions has been instrumental in allowing us to speak up for what we believe in. While it’s easy for Negative Nancy in the corner to moan about seeing yet another petition shared on Facebook – don’t forget what these pages stand for. Never before has it been so easy for us as a society to learn about issues, come together and unite to try and make a difference. By organising support and facilitating a collective outpouring of opinion, we can help people (and animals, environments, etc.) around the world who need others to speak up for them.

An example that sticks out in my head is the #illridewithyou hashtag which spread rapidly across Australia and the world in the wake of the hostage situation in Sydney last December. A show of solidarity for Muslim people who were afraid of a backlash following this extremist attack, this online trend was made possible by the instant and global nature of communication on social media sites.

It’s easy to lose sight of what we have when people are being complete tosspots to each other. But don’t let that overshadow the amazing opportunities afforded to us by the technology we’re lucky enough to have. By using the internet to its fullest potential, we’re connecting people and causes, and learning more about our world as a whole – as well as having FUN. Not everything has to be serious all the time! I’m still going to write about emojis because I don’t think it’s frivolous or childish to take happiness where you find it in life. We all deal with our own issues and, you know what, sometimes tiny pictures of mushrooms make me happy. 

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles