Ever since the social media boom, users have been reaching for their phones before they even reach for their alarm clocks. This unique, immediate outlet allows us to share the ups and downs of our lives for the rest of the world to see!
Some see this as just another sign of the worldwide addiction to the Internet; the relationships maintained online are often overshadowed when compared to the cyberbullying, cyberstalking, attention-seeking and loss of privacy in this day and age. However, bonds forged over social media often serve as far more than a “like” on the latest selfie. They have impacted lives in ways no one could have imagined.
Proud mother Michelle Freeman posted a picture of her two-year-old daughter Grace on Facebook for her friends to admire. One of those online friends, a nurse named Nicola Sharp, happened across it and quickly noticed that something was amiss. Grace’s gaze was illuminated by the camera flash, but instead of the red glint we’ve come to expect from cameras, one of her eyes appeared white.
Realizing that this could be a sign of eye cancer, Nicola immediately brought it to Michelle’s attention. Sure enough, when Grace was taken to the hospital, two tumors were found and she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. There weren’t any previous signs that Grace had vision problems; had she never posted that picture, Michelle would’ve been none the wiser about Grace’s condition and the cancer could very well have been fatal.
Facebook was also the conduit for an eleven-year-old’s incredible birthday surprise. Michigan elementary schooler Colin, who struggles with isolating disabilities, told his mother Jennifer not to bother arranging a party for him because he had no friends to celebrate with. Instead of accepting defeat, Jennifer set up a social media page asking friends to show their support by sending Colin birthday wishes. Overwhelming help and encouragement flooded in from all sides as people online shared the page, providing Colin with over 590,000 friends who would celebrate him. To this day, the “Colin’s Friends” page has over 2.1 million fans.
The value of social media has been shown even in the darkest times. In the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, five-year-old Aden Huser was separated from his family after falling somewhere in the crowd. A stranger happened upon Aden and took him with her to a nearby motel, where an off-duty police officer named Chris Cunningham began taking pictures of him and posting them to social media, spreading the word that Aden was alive and waiting for his mother. Hundreds of shares later, Chris and his girlfriend received a phone number from Aden’s grandfather. They arranged a meeting at the nearby hospital and Aden was soon reunited with his mom and grandpa.
Cases like these remind us that social media’s purpose is to touch lives all over the world, regardless of the negativity that surrounds us. Every day, “likes” and comments come from real human beings who can be friends to us in ways we would never expect. While perusing the latest videos and pictures that cross our feeds, we can foster a better form of social media by becoming social servants—filtering our choice of words in debate, boosting others’ confidence and creativity, remaining aware of what we have to offer, and being there when friends reach out from the other side of the screen.