EDITORIAL: Social media can equal social conscience

Social media often gets a bad rap, but plenty of good can come from it, as well.

Social media gets a bad rap a lot of the time. Often it deserves it.

Critics don’t have to look far for evidence of its – and our – failings. Sites offer a grand showcase of narcissism and misinformation, not to mention a whole host of other negative attributes, including greed, envy, paranoia and racism.

But it may be that we are too willing to blame the mirror for what it is reflecting – just as many are ready to shoot the messenger whenever more traditional media report something we don’t like or don’t agree with.

Social media is an easy mark and an easy scapegoat – but really it’s only as good or bad as the people who post things on it.

And many of those individuals are good, basically decent people. Their greatest crime is using social media to share the occasional laugh, a thought-provoking article or two, a chunk of positive philosophy, a cute critter or some other thing of beauty – whether shaped by nature, or the hand and eye of an artist.

Sometimes it’s even a vehicle for empathy and public spirit – evidence that people haven’t lost their basic, human connection, for all our obsession with technology.

Take the case of a father and daughter from Saskatoon en route to Victoria who lost almost all their belongings when someone stole their rented U-Haul truck and trailer in South Surrey just before New Year’s Eve.

When their plight was posted on social media, many responded positively by sharing the post. They felt for the family in its predicament – identified with how it would feel to lose everything in the middle of a momentous, and no doubt stressful, household move.

Mainstream media took notice, circulating the appeal for information on the missing truck and trailer both in print and on the airwaves.

And good came of all the attention. An Abbotsford resident noticed a U-Haul truck apparently abandoned in a parking lot and called police. It turned out to be the missing truck, and while most of the family’s possessions were gone, some irreplaceable photos and other mementos – including urns of family members – were recovered.

It’s worth remembering that some good can come of our current fascination with social media – particularly the next time we’re tempted to decry it for emphasizing our lack of connection and empathy.