Social Media for Social Change – Express Yourself


Notes from a presentation I gave to the Media Kidocracy Konference organised by Bush Radio in South Africa December 2012 to an audience average age 15-16

Your Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr. That’s what most of us think about when we hear about Social Media. And since I arrived here in South Africa I’ve learned about others that aren’t so well known in the UK: Mixit, Wassup and 2Go.

These are the places you go where you can express yourself. I want to quote Lumko Mtimde who spoke at the beginning of the week. He said this: “You have to know yourself before you can know the world.” And if you are careful and thoughtful and consider who you make as friends on Social Media, you can get to know both yourself and the world. Social Media is not just about “talking”, it is about listening. Not just reading and hearing, but listening.

Social media is a place to join your friends and make new ones. It is like a great city, but like any city there are places you would not go. There are people you would not want to know.

Producing Content is Power
And I want to quote Lumko Mtimde again when he said at this conference “producing content is power”. I hope that’s his phrase, because I’m going to be quoting it from now on, I’m going to put it on a T-shirt and on a coffee mug. People don’t become newspaper publishers or owners of cable television channels just for the fun of it. They control the production of content. That is power.

But if you produce content, you also have power – maybe not as much as a newspaper, but you do have power. So what is content? Posting updates on your social media sites, your photographs, videos even emails. “Social Media is a creative act and it is a public act.” This time I’m quoting me.

Expressing yourself and Democracy
What if you want some small change in your community? You want a small place to play your sport. It’s not going to cost much, but you need the council’s help. You go to your councillor. What are they going to do? Pat you on the head and say “Thanks for letting me know”? What if it is 10 friends? Maybe pay a little more attention – but hey, your 15 years old; what does he care?

Well, suppose you start a Facebook campaign. You use that to do some research. You find out it won’t cost much and you have 1000 supporters on Facebook. Then you go to the councillor and say “My friends and I will work with you on this, it will cost this amount and by the way I have 1000 friends on Facebook who support this and by the time of the next election they will all be voters!” Now, do you think the councillor is more likely to help?

Civic Engagement
So how will you use social media for social change? Civic engagement is not waiting for the government or the council to do something for you. It is about you and your friends and your elected politicians working together to change things. And this is not just theory. Check this out. It’s not Facebook, but the same can be done on Facebook.

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