After the ISIS attacks on Paris, #PrayForParis appeared in thousands of tweets across the globe. People changed their profile pictures to match France’s flag and posted messages of support and love. Videos of victims displaying courage and forgiveness have been shared over and over again.
Why did so much goodwill spread so quickly? The answer lies with science.
Dr. Jeremy Dean, author and founder of PsyBlog, reported a study in which scientists analyzed the content and reactions of 3,800 Twitter users. They tracked the social responses to the users’ tweets and concluded that positive tweets are more “contagious” than negative ones. When people see or read something that makes them feel good, they want to share it with others and spread the joy.
Why not use positive social media to fight global poverty? Twitter is an especially powerful tool because a quick search on global poverty will generate thousands of tweets on the latest news. Trending hashtags link information across the globe.
When it comes to global poverty, it’s much more common to see and hear horrific stories of disease, malnutrition, war and despair. Negativity is no friend to progress. Most, if not all, people who see negative content on social media will pause, allow themselves a moment of pity, and then continue scrolling.
No one wanders onto the internet in the hope of becoming depressed about the state of the world. An overdose of negativity will lead people to believe that nothing can be done to remedy the problem. Furthermore, according to Dean, negative content compelled 20 percent more people to produce negative tweets.
Instead of tweeting about the 805 million malnourished people in the world, mention that world hunger has been cut in half in the last 10 years. Discuss the Sustainable Development Goal to end extreme poverty by 2030.
Tweeting positive content about global poverty shows people that solutions exist. People want to help fight global poverty, and once they know how, both news and efforts will spread quickly.
The U.N. developed the 2015 #YouthNow campaign to raise awareness of challenges and development opportunities for youth. Many struggling young people have found employment after investigating the campaign on Twitter. Others used the hashtag to learn more about global issues. The National Foundation for Educational Research reported a rise in political involvement among young people brought on by social media usage.
As of 2015, 320 million people use Twitter. Of that number, 34 percent log onto their account more than once a day. Imagine if all those people were utilizing Twitter to promote poverty reduction bills or solicit donations to nonprofit organizations? A lot can be accomplished with only 140 characters.
– Sarah Prellwitz