It’s difficult, when working in social media, not to take notice of recent events in the UK. It’s an unfortunate thing that the inherent (and positive) power of social media is questionned and doubted due to the actions of a minority. But social media has power way beyond the influences we’ve seen suggested in the media over the past few days.
Many news sources are suggesting that the riots in London and across the UK are being organised via social media – under particular scrutiny are Twitter and Blackberry’s BBM. According to some news, rioters are announcing meeting places and coordinating their actions using social media – and for that reason, some are even suggesting stricter regulations around the use of BBM and even shutting it down entirely until the riots have subsided. You can see more coverage about this on the BBC News site.
All of this raises difficult questions about social media and how we use it in society. Can we really impose restrictions on social media? Or are we putting our freedom of speech and our own liberties at risk if we do?
But more importantly, can we really tarnish social media with the brush of negativity? Since the rioting began, we’ve seen a whole range of social media led initiatives which aim to bring positivity in a difficult time – proving that social media can be an instigator of good and that social media users are not afraid to stand up for what is right.
As an example, you may have been following @riotcleanup and the accompanying hashtag #riotcleanup. Through this Twitter account, people have been arranging clean up operations around the country to get the places affected by the riots back to normal. Today, the account has over 86,000 followers and is still trending worldwide. And it’s not just an online initiative – people really are participating, turning up to locations affected with brooms and bin bags, ready to help in any way they can. Take a look at the riotcleanup at www.twitter.com/riotcleanup.
There’s also the growing initiative ‘Operation Cup of Tea’, a Facebook event come hashtag which encourages followers to stay at home and enjoy a cup of tea, posting photos of themselves with their hot drinks and showing that they are not rioting. A very British response! You can follow Operation Cup of Tea on Facebook or use the hashtag #operationcupoftea on Twitter.
There are many lessons we need to learn from the events currently taking place in our country. One that we’d like to bring to light is that social media is powerful and the people using it will stand up for what they believe. As long as we have the positivity and camaraderie we see through initiatives such as riotcleanup and Operation Cup of Tea, there’s hope for our country.