The internet has not been a nice place. According to UNICEF’s preliminary studies, almost half of Filipino children experience violence on the internet. Instances of cyber bullying and shaming populate news feeds, ruining reputations and lives. However, inside the darkness are pockets of light as people use social networks selflessly to help and lift people up.
Early in 2016, Filipino Facebook users’ feeds became filled with the story of 3-year old Caitie Lucas, a toddler diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, a rare blood cancer with no known treatment. The suffering family chronicled her struggles in a Facebook Page called Courageous Caitie, and her story spread throughout the network.
The page struck a chord among Filipino social media users, who shared posts, sent encouraging messages, and even organized fundraisers or simply donated for Caitie’s treatment. While she passed away in April, the offerings of support brightened her last days and helped her family recover from the tragedy.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
This now-classic viral campaign wasn’t just about celebrities drenching themselves in ice. It was about raising awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a rare disease that affects the brain and the spinal column. A massively successful integration of social media and PR, the challenge garnered the participation of thousands of celebrities and ordinary people, and raised over $115 million for ALS patients.
Yolanda struck on November 8, 2013, leaving behind utter devastation. Homes and lives vanished in the deluge. Thousands of survivors were left isolated and helpless. Over social media, people reached out: families were reunited, aid was organized, and donations were collected from all over the world.
UNICEF Prematurity Awareness
Each year, approximately 20,000 Filipino premature children die. Fortunately, up to 75 percent of preterm deaths are preventable. That’s why UNICEF sought to raise awareness in the Philippines through documentary videos that can be shared across social media. By giving viewers a ground-level view of the issue, documentary-style videos are able to attract social attention and focus efforts to the greater good.
Before AlDub broke the internet, the most widely used hashtag was support for a very controversial decision by the US Supreme Court: the legalization of same-sex marriage. Millions of tweets came out in support of the decision under #LoveWins, demonstrating the whole world’s acceptance of homosexual rights and the fact that love always wins.
Like all things populated by people, social media can be mean-spirited, uncaring, and dismissive, especially with the recent elections. But there is good too. And each act of kindness and decency wipes away tons of the worst.