After spending the last few months learning and reading about how business use the internet as a device to help them gain a bigger customer base, to promote themselves and to basically earn more money, it has made me feel a little disheartened at how the great and powerful internet is being taken over by business for purely monetary gains. So I have decided to concentrate this blog post on looking at how some people are using the internet, for what I see as its greatest feature, to raise awareness, bring people together in support for the same cause and initiating social change. Many charity organisations use the internet and social media to raise awareness for their causes, Oxfam has its own website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube channel and even an online shop to enable them to spread their message as far and wide as possible to help rally people to fight world poverty. This is one of the amazing things that the internet allows us to do. The speed and virality that the internet offers to its users allows for messages to be shared to a huge number of people in a very short time, this is an excellent opportunity for people that aim to raise awareness for a cause as they can assemble a huge following in a relatively short amount of time. This is caused purpose community building.
An online community of purpose was defined by Durlacher in 1999, they were defining it in a business context but this definition can also be applied to other organisational types, it is a community of “people who are going through the same process or trying to achieve a particular objective” (Chaffey.D, Ellis-Chadwick. F 2012). When examining online communities fostering engagement in the community can be a downfall as “a silent community isn’t a community” (ibid).
An example of online purpose community building, that highlights the great impact that digital platforms has had on being able to communicate a message and raise awareness on a subject matter, is the It Gets Better Project. This grass roots internet based project is aimed at preventing suicide in LBGT teenagers by having adults convey messages through online videos about how they too suffered when they were younger but that their lives have improved. The project first started when Dan Savage posted video on YouTube with his boyfriend Terry talking about how the hard times they suffered as teens but they now lead fulfilling lives together as parents in response to a spate of teen suicides as a result of them being bullied for being homosexual. After Dan Savage uploaded this first video hundreds of other videos posted telling their stories of how ‘it gets better’. Through the use of YouTube and the ease of which videos can be shared and sent to others these videos attracted huge attention to the problem of homophobic bullying. The project gained massive support from celebrities, like Neil Patrick-Harris, Tom Hanks, even Kermit the Frog uploaded videos in the hope to reassure teenagers or anyone who was suffering that it does get better. It wasn’t just celebrities that used their pull power to attract public attention to the cause companies like Google and Facebook uploaded videos with their employees sharing their stories, and arguably the most powerful man in the world Barrack Obama posted a video in support of the campaign. In the first two weeks of the project its YouTube channel reached its limit of 650 videos, there are now more than 50,000 user-created videos that have been viewed over 50 million times.
The It Gets Better Project shows ” the arrival of the internet allowed communities to connect, regardless of geography. Case study after case study shows the growing power of virtual communities, sometimes only in existence for a short time, to create social change” (Holloman, 2012). Since its creation the It Gets Project has formed a foundation to communicate with LGBT youth around the world that it gets better, they still manage a YouTube channel and host videos on their website- http://www.itgetsbetter.org/ where users are still able to upload their own It Gets Better videos. Along with their digital channels the It Gets Better Project has been able to emerge from their base in the internet with speaking engagements held by Dan Savage and an hour long MTV special. Also in 2012 the It Gets Better Project received the prestigious Governors award from The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, in the announcement made by Bruce Rosenblum the chairman of the Academy he said that “The It Gets Better Project is a great example of strategically, creatively and powerfully utilizing the media to educate and inspire. This is television moving well beyond the traditional physical set in the viewer’s living room to the intimacy of the monitor, laptop, tablet or mobile device and delivering the ideal mix of inspiration and creativity to affect awareness and, ultimately, change.”
Holloman, Christopher (2012) The Social Media MBA. Chichester: Wiley.
Chaffey, Dave & Ellis-Chadwick, F (2012) Digital Marketing Strategy Implementation and Practice. Fifth Ed. Essex, Pearson Education Limited.
Grzanka, Patrick.R & Mann, E.S (2014) Queer youth suicide and the psychopolitics of ”It Gets Better”. Sexualities [online] 17, 2014. Avaliable at http://www.sex.sagepub.com/content/17/4/369 [accessed 27th November 2014]
Emmys (2012) It Gets Better” to Get Governors Award [online] available at http://www.emmys.com/news/awards-news/it-gets-better-get-governors-award [accessed 27th November 2014]
www.ItGetsBetter.org [accessed 27th November 2014]