I was in a rush to make the train home from Chicago to South Bend and didn’t have time to stop at Trader Joe’s as I had planned. I was very disappointed because I was excited to finally try the infamous Everything But the Bagel Seasoning but wasn’t going to get the chance.
I had been “influenced” into thinking the seasoning was the nectar of the Instagram gods and I couldn’t wait to try it. Silly, I know.
On the ride home, I turned to Instagram again and jokingly shared my disappointment and made a plea for someone to mail it to me instead. I wasn’t expecting much.
But what I got was almost unbelievable.
When I opened Instagram again later in the day, I had 13 DMs from people (some real-life friends, some social media acquaintances) offering to send me the seasoning. I was shocked.
It may seem like something so small, but at the moment I was truly overwhelmed and touched by how people were willing to help! People whom I’d never met were going to spend their own money to help me get a little jar of seasoning — of which I now own three.
This is a small example, but it reminded me of the power of community that social media can create when we let it.
Social media is a tool
Like any tool, it’s only as effective as the person using it. If we’re interested in making the world a better place, we have a duty to use this tool responsibly.
Most of the time, when social media is in the news, it gets a bad rap. From trolls on Twitter to toxic idealizations on Instagram to polarizing groups on Facebook — there’s no shortage of reasons to be disconnected from these platforms. When used the wrong way, social media can tear people down and hurt them in real life.
But what happens when you use it for good? Friendships are formed, funds are raised, communities are built — it can multiply the good that comes from connecting with people in real life.
Social media is not the end-all, be-all
I often say that social media is only as good as the greater good it reflects.
There are few things in life that bring me greater joy than a social media acquaintance becoming a real-life friend. It’s a powerful reminder that there are actually real people behind those witty tweets and styled Instagram posts.
Meeting a person IRL after communicating with and getting to know them for months or years online is like a warm homecoming. That’s because social media is meant to share some of the good that we treasure in our personal encounters and relationships.
All the jokes and insights we’ve shared through DMs pale in comparison to laughing together and appreciating each other in person over drinks or coffee or whatever it may be.
It sounds cheesy, but if you’ve experienced this then you know what I mean! I cherish my social media-turned-IRL friends in a special way. I hope that everyone who has turned online to find a community of people has the chance to experience it offline, too.
Remember real people are watching and listening
One final main takeaway from the Everything But The Bagel incident was that real people are watching and listening to everything you share online.
I joke about being #influenced, but the truth is that you don’t need 10k followers to make an impact. If my few hundred followers saw my plea for seasoning and responded to it, imagine how people could respond to causes that have higher stakes.
What you share and say puts out into the world your unique perspective and insights and experiences. Even without seeing a major response from people, that contribution enriches the online conversation.
I am more motivated to work out when I see it in my feed. I am put in a better mood by others sharing their #MondayMotivation. I’ve found inspiration from people living their faith all over the world.
On the flip side, I have heard from literally dozens of people that the #saladlife posts my brother-in-law gives me grief for actually encourage them to eat healthier and provide recipe inspo. I share about things I’m passionate about — like eating plant-based food, living a low-waste lifestyle, and practicing my faith — because I hope others will be more open and interested in those things by seeing the same goodness in them that appeals to me.
Every act has an impact, and the actions we take on social media have real and lasting impacts, too. So today let’s celebrate all the positive ways social media has impacted our lives, with the hope that by focusing on the good among us, we encourage a more positive and welcoming world.