Every New Year brings with it a time to reflect on what’s been accomplished and what is left to do.
This year, the Family Online Safety Institute cast a vision around creating a new kind of platform, one that is all about showing and sustaining the positive against a backdrop of the typical fear that is portrayed around new technology. That vision has inspired all of us.
It is in this spirit that I want to share our central belief: social connections enable us to connect, share and do good.
We see this dynamic everywhere.
Take Daniel Cui. Daniel is a high school student who played goalie for his school’s soccer team. After the game-losing goal slipped passed him, Daniel started getting harassed online by some classmates.
And that’s when the power of social media kicked in. Overnight, many of his classmates changed their Facebook profile pictures to show a picture of Daniel at his best -- blocking goals and defending his team. The whole school community took a stand and had his back. After seeing the reaction, Daniel walked into school the next day feeling 10 feet tall – and he’s still playing soccer.
Another example: Justin Auciello, who runs the Jersey Shore Hurricane News Page. Justin started the page just before Hurricane Irene in 2011. Justin’s Page became a trusted news source for those in the area.
For Justin, one of the most important things his Facebook Page was able to do was communicate the danger of the storm before it hit, and that is indeed what happened. His page served as a crucial tool for people affected by Hurricane Sandy. It let them know about shelters, supplies and news.
During Sandy, Justin posted that if people were trapped and couldn’t get through to 911, they should post their locations and someone would come help.
Kara Strafaci, the granddaughter of a 93-year old diabetic who was trapped in the storm, saw Justin’s post and videos from South Seaside Park depicting how bad the storm had hit the area. She immediately sent a message to the Page and, because of that message, her grandma was rescued.
So what do the Daniel Cui and the Justin Auciello stories have in common? They share two powerful aspects: the power of technology and the power of people.
Daniel’s story teaches us that society can use technology to create social norms for good. For every bully, there are courageous people that want to rise up and create a culture of kindness and respect. Daniel’s classmates spoke through their profiles and, in doing so, they had a clear message for their school community: Bullying is not cool. Not in our school.
Justin’s story tells an equally important lesson: community creates a powerful dynamic in sharing information. Justin created a resource where each person, through the ties of the social graph, was exposed to information they may not have seen otherwise.
And this dynamic can have a powerful impact on some of the issues that we care about most as a society.
We’re seeing this happen in education. Historically, the notion of the education ‘achievement gap’ has been thought of as primarily academic. In fact, the education issue has been thought of in the context of the economy and politics, and the debate has focused on the long-term structural challenges – improving teacher quality, creating school choice and other issues.
These are all important issues. But in the age of social media, we have an opportunity to achieve real progress, right now. Today’s websites and online service providers give children and teens access to an unprecedented variety of resources to foster and support teaching and learning. They connect the community – parents, educators, teens.
Social media can impact how our nation’s youth prepare for, get into, and stay in college. And this insight leads to profound questions.
What will be the impact that this dynamic can have on all of the issues that we, as a society, care about?
What happens when everyone has ACCESS to content and the content, itself, has widespread DISTRIBUTION?
5 billion people throughout the world have a mobile phone. What’s the impact when the world has access to all of this sharing and connecting?
We are living in a time of transformation. We see people interacting in ways never before imaginable. Communities created based on common interest, where people connect and share. It is bringing distant ties together to share information that matters to everyone. It is creating social norms, where the good overpowers the bad.
We are eager to see the impact of this transformation in 2013.
Happy New Year!