Social Media: A Tool for Social Change

With one in five young people spending at least 20 hours a week on social networking sites, it cannot be denied that it has become a powerful tool for young people to connect and engage with each other.
However, with this constant connection to technology, it also presents an ongoing challenge for mental health providers and young people themselves.
We are all too familiar with the dark side of online problems, but as social media becomes more and more popular, so does the idea of tapping into this technology in order to create positive change.

We face no boundaries when voicing our opinion online, and the networks we use on a day-to-day basis have allowed for progressive social movements on a global scale; from a group of 16-year-olds from Afghanistan who created an online twitter hashtag to improve their quality of education, to a 13-year-old-girl from the United States who received 45,000 signatures on an online Facebook petition to promote gender equality.
However, youth in Australia are just as impressive, and the FYA 2014 Unleashed Festival was here on Sunday to prove just that.

Unleashed celebrated the massive, powerful movement of social change, and there were a number of young Aussies there to tell their inspirational tales surrounding social media.

Freya Wright-Brough, a 22-year-old Brisbane writer and filmmaker told the story of her “Extreme Writing – 365 Day Challenge”.
This creative and unique writer has so far written a story every day of the year, with the helpful suggestions from either her friends or even complete strangers.
“Someone will tweet me, or write on my Facebook wall saying something like ‘a dog will fall into a painting’ and then I have to write about it and ill post it online that day,” Freya said.

The idea for the challenge was formed after she wrote for 24 hours straight at the National Young Writers festival, and has since gained well over 500 followers on Twitter and Facebook combined.

“I think we should use social media in the way that we interact with people in real life, I don’t have a huge amount of followers but they’re really important to me and they always stay with me.
The way we can converse with people on so many levels and from so many different places is just a really positive thing,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nishan David, the Program Manager of FYA’s new movement ‘Adappt’, told the story of young Australians using technology to solve humanity’s biggest problems.
“And you don’t need to be a tech wizard to join,” he said.

Adappt seeks to empower young digital people with the belief that they can use design and everyday technology to create cool app ideas to change the world.
“We haven’t even begun to tap the surface of what we can actually do, and social media and technology can help us streamline our process of finding causes that we really care about,” Nishan said.

“The thing about Adappt is that I don’t have any answers. It’s all about young Australians coming up with the answers for the app ideas that we need, and that is really exciting”.
As the festival wrapped up, Co-founder of Thankyou Water (TW), Justine Flynn took to the microphone to tell the story of a small business, which with a limited marketing budget, created a world of difference through a clever viral campaign.

TW is a brand of bottled water, which uses 100% of its profits to fund water projects in developing nations across Africa and South East Asia. The organisation itself is amazing, however like any business, the Melbourne based team of 18 to 22 year olds needed to expand in order to make more profit for their social causes.

On July 4, 2011, a meeting was to be held with the buying team at 7-Eleven Australia, however prior to this the team at TW created a campaign asking Facebook and Twitter users to upload a video telling 7-Eleven that if their business stocked Thankyou Water, they would drink it.

“We had the idea of using social media because it could show them who was really behind it,” Justine said.
“Social media gives the everyday Australian the opportunity to voice their opinion and to have a say… and big businesses actually do listen to that, as they want what the consumer wants”.

As a result, 7-Eleven quickly jumped on board and over three years later, 90,368 people now have access to clean drinking water. Creating social change? I think so!

We can change the way people think and act, through something that we simply use on a daily basis, and these are just some of the incredible examples of the youth of our nation doing exactly that.

As FYA Digital Community Manager, Brianna Davidson said,
“Social media users support and address cause-based issues as a sign of their identity.”

Let us remove the negative connotations that come with social media, and teach the youth of today to use this tool to create the change our society deserves.

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