Time and time agains people, celebrities, and even local law enforcement have turned to social media to bring awareness to various subjects. In 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge prompted celebrities with mass social media followings such as LeBron James and Hugh Jackman to participate and bring awareness to the illness.
Last Wednesday, an Ohio policeman pulled over a vehicle for driving erratically, only to find the driver barely conscious and the passenger unconscious, turning blue. However, the most shocking discovery was that there was a 4 year old boy sitting in a car seat in the rear of the car. When first responders arrived on scene, they had to administer a drug that would reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Shortly thereafter, the driver and passenger were arrested and Child Protective Services was contacted. Later, the city of East Liverpool posted photos of the scene on their Facebook page. Accompanying the post was this statement by the city, “It is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.” This photo has been shared over 22,000 times and has been spreading all over the internet. In another article I read, scientists have discovered a mathematical model that explains how things go viral on social media. The model found that once reluctance to accept a new idea is overcome, the phenomenon has the ability to go viral, reaching millions, similar to how a disease spreads.
After reading these two articles, I came to the conclusion that social media can be a powerful tool to raise awareness, stop undesirable social behavior, or simply spread a message. But it also raises the question, how and why do people use social media to spread undesirable or unwanted ideas and phenomena?