Doing Good with Social Media

Lynn JataniaMy teens are still young and new to social media, so until now, we’ve mostly been focusing on the risks. Our main message to them has been to be careful, and that less time online is always better.

But there is good to be done with social media as well. As a Lady of Certain Age, I feel like I’ll never be able to fully tap in to the power of it; I mostly use Facebook to keep in touch with family and Instagram to post the occasional cute memory moment.

Other people – younger people than me! – are using social media to start movements and to change the way people think. I just love Humans of New York, a feed that has expanded far beyond that one city to present stories of everyday people from around the world. It’s changed my thinking and my outlook – one guy with a social media account.

I’m starting to talk to my teens about how they can use the many hours they spend on their Instagram accounts to do good. They’re in Scouts and Girl Guides, so already they have a pretty good community viewpoint and are interested in getting involved. (Did you know that MediaSmarts collaborated on a digital citizenship badge for Guides?) I figure they’ll be able to come up with even better ideas than I can on how to change the world for the better.

One thing I’m going to have them do this year, though – just to get the ball rolling – is to do an Instagram Advent Calendar. This is something I started myself last year in December. It was just something casual I came up with while I was putting out our stockings on December 1. Rather than follow my usual once-every-month-or-so Instagram posting schedule, I’d post one picture a day of something Christmas related that was bringing me joy.

I absolutely loved it, too. It got me into the Christmas spirit and I loved looking at my own feed at all my favourite holiday things – everything from ornaments to drive-through Peppermint Mochas to the first snowfall of the year.

When the kids were little, we used to do an Advent Calendar of family activities; we did one small craft or game or outing each day from December 1 through December 24. Now that they are teens it’s too hard to get everyone in one place at the same time every day, and they aren’t much into crafting or building snowmen in the park anymore anyway. But this? This, I think I can get them to do. One small bit of gratitude each day, one little thing that makes them happy, recorded for posterity.

Maybe it will help spread some joy around. Maybe it will serve to record memories they’ll return to year after year. Maybe it’ll just make them smile each day for one month of the year. In any case, it’s a small thing, but it’s a good thing. It’s a start.

What kind of good do you do with your social media accounts?