Is That Facebook Status Of Yours Changing Minds?

Istanbul, Turkey - September 18, 2015: Apple Iphone 6 screen with social media applications of Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, L
Istanbul, Turkey - September 18, 2015: Apple Iphone 6 screen with social media applications of Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Periscope while a male finger is about to touch on Facebook app.

I'm famous amongst my friends for bashing social media. Normally I believe Facebook is nothing more than a place where people dump useless crap--like political views and disgusting videos.

Let's target political views for a second. I always hate seeing them because they quickly turn into a blood bath. We create so much negativity with a few strokes of our fingers and then thoughtlessly push that out into the digital world. I honestly believed that posts like these don't do a damn thing to change behavior. But then I noticed my own views changing on certain topics.

I must say that my political views drastically changed in the past two years -- and I blame social media. I see my friend's posts, which normally brim with a liberal edge, and I've changed because of them.

Two years ago I burned bright as a conservative. I hated Obama. And I'm so ashamed to say that I had a different view on the Black Lives Matters movement. It's not easy to say that, because I don't want to hurt my friends reading. But the good news is that I transformed thanks to those same people reading this now.

I remember seeing a striking cartoon three years ago of a criminal assaulting a woman in the city. She's depicted crying out for help in an alley, while those in the adjacent building start a hashtag called "#standwithher." I thought about how that image nails our generation today. When we witness something unfortunate happening, we jump to record it rather than help. We're addicted to social media and our image.

But I want to challenge that thinking. First, I want to discuss how social media changes our THINKING. Second, I want to discuss how social media changes our ACTIONS.

According to a survey released by Pew Research Center, 16 percent of social media users report changing their political views because of a Facebook post. Furthermore, 25 percent of these users also reported becoming more active in a given political issue because of social media.

So, 16 percent of people change their mind, and 25 percent of people become more involved in political issues. Those numbers astound me.

But not everybody feels this way.

An article published on The Dartmouth shows a different side. Shonda Rhimes gave the Dartmouth commencement speech in 2014, and said, "Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter, but a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It's a hashtag. It's you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show."

This thinking aligns with the cartoon I mentioned earlier.

But think about the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, and how that raised significant money.

In that same article, April Reign, the creator of the famous #oscarssowhite hashtag, states, "We're connected more by the internet than by a personal relationship or a geography. Those who think hashtags don't work or that young millennials are apathetic really haven't spend a lot of time being a part of that, because it does exist and it is successful."

But as stated earlier, the change that we see isn't always significant.

Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University journalism professor, said, "Most students at most times are apathetic in that whatever they think or think they think, they have other priorities besides stepping up and doing political work. With the exception of episodic excitements, only a small percentage of students participate in any kind of political activity."

"Social media are like wisps of oxygen -- they get people excited but then they wear out," he added.

Hmm. Wisps of oxygen or a force for change? After researching the topic, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Perhaps a hashtag doesn't urge too many people to take up arms, but it does help shine a light on those cultivating real change.

Professor Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon, of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said, "Of course social media doesn't push you to risk your life and take to the streets, but it helps the actions of those who take the risk to gain international visibility."

Which makes sense. Hitting the "share" button is easy, and those who accomplish remarkable things can become internet famous in a matter of hours.

So, is that Facebook status of yours changing minds?

Yes. We might not be ripping the fabric of time and space to cause a revolution, but I believe the exchange of ideas along with social change itself have received a "bump" because of our social media posts.

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