When I launched SpanglishBaby four years ago I had never heard of the phrase "social media for social good." In fact, I had barely even heard of blogging. Twitter was in its infancy and Facebook was no longer just the place to reconnect with high school friends who would in turn embarrass you by posting photos from the "old days."
The idea that social media platforms could be used for social good drove me to create SpanglishBaby with my best friend, Roxana A. Soto. My motivation was to ensure that my own daughter grew up with awareness of her heritage and the language that binds it. Of course, I hoped that sharing the information would benefit other mothers of bilingual kids that longed for the same resources and stories from moms like them. What I never imagined was that SpanglishBaby, and now our book Bilingual is Better, could actually transform the lives of children whose parents now have access to the knowledge, tools and community-support necessary for embarking on the journey of gifting their child with the benefits of a bilingual upbringing.
I have to admit that writing those last sentences above still feels weird to me. I have a hard time recognizing that small and consistent actions can truly create change in individuals and even have a ripple effect into families and communities. I've always wondered if I am doing enough for others. I haven't volunteered at homeless shelters. I haven't always donated as much time or money as I thought that I should. I wanted to do more, but limited resources and a fear of the unknown prevented me from moving from desire into action.
I found my voice when social media entered my life. I realized that a significant contribution doesn't have to look like time or money. I can actually do as much or more good by using my innate abilities to tell a story and to connect that story to those who can activate it.
If it weren't for social media I would have never gotten on a plane with a group of bloggers and Willa Shalit-- artist, producer and fair trade advocate-- to see for myself the needs of women in Haiti two years after the massive 2010 earthquake. Our group met with women and mothers living in the direst conditions in mud and disease-ridden tent cities. The women greeted us with the most sincere of smiles and not one of them begged for money from any of us. They simply wanted us to tell their story and help them learn how to be self-sustainable through work. These women lack clean water, good maternal care, and vaccines for their children. They are being abused by men at alarming rates. They are still at the mercy of mother Earth and the effects of global warming. Yet, they greet us with smiles because at the end of the day, we're all women and mothers coming together to hear each other's stories -- to connect and share.
And that's why social media is such a powerful tool in the hands of women. We love to share stories with each other, but now we're finally going way beyond our borders and comfort zones to hear the stories that need a voice. We are that voice to voiceless women. We have the power, and the responsibility that comes with it, to give a voice to a mother who needs help anywhere in the world. We don't actually have to go to Haiti to meet women and mothers who need a voice. We just need to be aware of the tools we have at our disposal to transform social media into a platform for social good.
I know I have been transformed and am capable of giving back. Through Latina Bloggers Connect, my network of over 700 Latina bloggers, I am now reaching a core audience that has the capacity to amplify any message exponentially. This month we launched our social good component called Inspired Connections™ where we share via a weekly email and a blog post those causes that we feel will resonate with our community. The goal is to activate our collective voices and hopefully reach more people to in turn inspire others through their social graphs.
And that's exactly what we hope to achieve during the Latinos in Social Media 2012 (LATISM) conference taking place in Houston, TX this week. I will be hosting a luncheon in partnership with Johnson & Johnson at LATISM where we hope to inspire the many Latino and Latina social media leaders that will be present in the room and following online to help us raise awareness of the needs of mothers and children throughout the world.
My hope is that by now all of us who are contributing in the social media sphere know the term "social media for social good" and can find our own way to give a voice to those who truly need it.