As a full-time editor for a technology company, a freelance copywriter, and free-time blogger, I spend about 28 hours a day staring at a computer screen. Despite all that time, I tend to steer clear of social media sites because quite frankly, they make me hate people.
Facebook® makes me hate my friends. Twitter® makes me hate famous people. Tumblr® makes me hate my followers. YouTube® makes me hate humanity. And don’t even get me started on Pinterest®, Instagram®, and Vine.
I truly believe we become the worst versions of ourselves online. With the computer screen to act as a shield from any repercussions of our actions, we morph into volatile, angry, overly opinionated humans. It’s like road rage, but extended to the Internet.
We hide behind our computers and say hostile, horrible things that we would never say in person. We pick fights about things we don’t even care about. We act big and bad and tough and mean. And then we walk away to get some pita chips and hummus like nothing ever happened.
This web rage phenomenon had almost driven me to turn my back on social media entirely, until I read the story about the mom who made a Facebook® page for her son’s 11th birthday.
When 10-year-old Colin of Kalamazoo, Michigan told his mother he didn’t want a birthday party because he didn’t have any friends, she knew he was telling the truth. Colin was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder and another disorder similar to autism about a year ago. Because of his disabilities, Colin struggles to communicate and make friends. So instead of throwing him a party, his mom, Jennifer, decided to make a Facebook® page for Colin’s birthday, hoping people would send him positive thoughts and encouraging words.
In just a few months, the page grew to over two million likes. It generated thousands of encouraging posts and more than 78,000 physical birthday cards and gifts. The story was picked up by Good Morning America, who surprised Colin by featuring him on the show on his actual birthday.
When I first read the story, I had squint really hard not to cry at my desk at work. It was touching to see how many people reached out to make one lonely boy feel special and loved. But even more so, it was touching to watch social media bring out the best versions of ourselves, instead the worst.
And if a mom in Kalamazoo can make that happen, imagine what brands and marketers and influencers can do.