There's a lot out there about how all that tweeting and gramming and whatever else kids are doing these days is harming our body image, making us depressed, and hindering our ability to connect in real life. And if you look at the work of anti-Hillary tweeters deprecating the candidate's appearance through the hashtag #saysomethingniceabouthillary or the #gamergate movement's violent attacks on women gamers, it's hard not to have some cynicism about social media.
But, BUT, like many things, social media can be used for good or evil. It gives us new ways to keep in touch with our friends, grow our professional networks (I'm looking at you, LinkedIn), and stay informed about current events. It also produced the following movements that may give technophobes and Luddites a grain of hope for the Internet.
1. Joe Miller used Instagram to reconstruct his past after losing his memory.
When he woke up from a coma after a stroke, 25-year-old artist Joe Miller had forgotten about 95 percent of his life. However, by looking at his old paintings and Instagram photos, he has begun to put the pieces back together. He wrote for People:
Thank God for Instagram. Before my stroke, I had an avid Instagram addiction. (By the way, one of the problems of memory loss is that you forget all of your passwords. It's horrible!) ... It's insane how those little snippets of memories – videos, captions, photos – triggered certain memories. ... Looking at all these old pictures and videos, I couldn't remember the full story, but I knew just enough to bring a smile to my face. It's funny. Before my stroke, friends would say, "Joe, you have a bad obsession. You should stop Instagramming or at least take a break." And I was always like, "No, I need to do this!" Turns out I did need to.
2. Supporters banded together for Bruce Jenner.
After Bruce Jenner announced to Diane Sawyer, “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman,” Jenner's family and fans alike responded supportively on Twitter.
Though The Bachelor franchise may seem like an unlikely source of progressiveness about gender, even former Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky responded positively.
3. Women are speaking out about the tech industry's sexism through #TableFlip2015.
The anonymous author of the website tableflip.club was tired of the sexism she and other women have faced in the tech industry, as well as tired of being told to "lean in" and solve a problem she didn't create. Since she began advocating for women to abandon their sexist coworkers instead of accommodating them, other women have responded by commiserating and even offering solutions with invitations to join women-led companies.
4. Everyone with Internet access or a smartphone can gain exposure to academic concepts through #SaturdaySchool.
Rhonda Ragsdale, Associate Professor of History at Lone Star College, was frustrated that not everyone could receive the amazing education she had. So, she created the weekly virtual teach-in #SaturdaySchool, where academics and non-academics alike share their thoughts on social justice issues from police brutality to slut-shaming. This is just one of many efforts academics make to bring their research to a broader audience through means like social media.
5. Members and allies of the LGBT community have used Twitter to honor transgender suicide victims.
Supporters commemorated Taylor Alesana, Zander Mahaffey, Blake Brockington, Leelah Alcorn, and other transgender people who left a world that did not accept them with hashtags that acknowledged both their preferred names and pronouns.
Sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it often feels like the negative voices on social media are the squeakiest. But while problems like online harassment are worth discussing, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The haters will have won if we forget about all these people using social media in creative and constructive ways to make the Internet a better, safer space.
Editor’s Note: Per Jenner’s stated preference, Bustle will continue referring to Jenner using he/his pronouns for the time being. We will follow his lead and make any changes to this policy as needed in the future.