In this guest post, Nate Richardson (main photo), business and digital director at Papermill Media, says social media has played a pivotal and positive role in many of the globe’s recent upheavals and COVID-19 shouldn’t be any different…
Since the beginning of time, pandemics have coexisted alongside humanity, leaving an indelible mark on the globe.
And, while history has recorded major outbreaks like the Black Death, Smallpox and Spanish Flu from the viewpoint of a select few, what’s different about COVID-19 is that we are currently facing the world’s first global pandemic playing out in real-time on social media, through a narrative that is being shaped and controlled directly through its users.
Painting a picture of life from inside the most severely affected countries, viral videos are being uploaded from people fighting for toilet paper in the streets, to others stuck in mandatory lockdown while they celebrate solitary birthdays in isolation – offering an unfiltered and instant portal into the evolving global crisis.
Among the hysteria, through our personal social feeds, and the means by which we now consume our media, we have given COVID-19 priority control of our online algorithms.
It may only be just 10 weeks into 2020 but the catastrophic events of the last few months have stripped our social platforms back to basics, and reminded us how powerful grassroots social media voices can be, not only circulating content in real time, but informing and uplifting communities, and bringing people closer together in the midst of a global emergency.
Personally, I felt proud to see the social media comments of Australian communities suggesting a designated elderly hour in supermarkets become a reality for Coles and Woolworths this week.
It felt good to see masses of freelancers, creatives and people who have lost their jobs, banding together in Facebook Groups to help each other find work and empathise with those in similar positions.
And, even more so, I feel a sense of pride in the way social is shining a light on some of the feelgood and inspiring stories coming out of the worst affected zones – in particular, the Italians – literally singing to the streets from their balconies in Tuscany.
People from around the world are spreading messages of love, calm and encouragement, and using social media in the way it was first conceived; to connect people in two-way conversations while bridging global communities together.
In a situation unfolding as fast as COVID-19, social media has been the great equaliser – disseminating information at an unprecedented rate, allowing media messages to be consumed alongside the viewpoints of vastly different and disparate groups.
We’ve seen a lot of bad news lately, and we probably will continue to for some time still to come, but it is these moments on social media that remind us that the stories and voices of everyday people now, more than ever, deserve a place in our newsfeeds.
So when the worst of coronavirus is behind us and we all return to business as usual, let this be an opportunity to capture and continue this spirit of connection – if this crisis has taught us anything it’s that our online voices really mean something.
Let’s continue to use social for good. It was designed to connect us after all.
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