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Everyday Enviro with Elise - In defence of social media

Date: 22-Oct-19
Author: Elise Catterall

Social media, like most of our tools for communication, can be a force for good or bad.

Social media, like most of our tools for communication, can be a force for good or bad.

In my last post I touched on one of the major issues I have with social media - the way it promotes a ‘look-at-me’ culture - and how, to my mind, that runs counter to constructive climate change messages.

While I know that social media has its positive aspects, my deeper feeling has been that it has many negative impacts on a cultural/behavioural/societal level, in part because it feels so focussed on the individual. Since I wrote that post (a whole fortnight!), I have done some reading and have now softened my opinion. Now, I feel more optimistic that social media can be a positive and powerful tool to promote awareness, discussion and, ultimately, inspire action about climate change.

Part of the beauty of social media, and a strong reason why it is a powerful tool, is that it creates a positive feedback loop, in which when more people share a post it leads to more people seeing a post, which leads to more people sharing, and so on. This gain in momentum results in a perception (or recognition) of consensus, which is a critical element in changing attitudes around climate change.

Another benefit of social media is that it has the power to connect individuals with thought leaders in a way that has never been achieved before. The more we are exposed to ideas and important issues, and the more we engage in important discussions, the more informed we are and the motivated we become to make positive change. 

Social media also has the ability to create geographically boundless communities that are filled with positivity, hope and encouragement, inspiring action. This was seen so clearly in the recent global School Strike for Climate protests. The promotion and realisation of this kind of activity was only possible due to the power of social media. Another fantastic example is the community that has sprung up around the Damon Gameau movie 2040, with a Facebook group now nearly 8000 members strong that is filled with constructive messages, support and inspiration.

It is true, however, that social media equally has the power to connect people to climate activists and climate dismissives/deniers, but that means there is the potential for (respectful) conversation and hopefully, positive forward movement. I truly believe that everyone has their climate change tipping point and social media is the perfect tool to find and address it.

Of course, information and awareness does not automatically translate to action, but it is a critical step in the process. I believe that if we can focus our efforts on building those positive communities, promoting messages that combine the three important elements of information, urgency and hope, and encourage people to connect with the things that matter (for example, nature), then social media can definitely be a primary driver for change.

See you next time! - Elise

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Elise                                             Catterall
Author: Elise Catterall

Elise is a writer, photographer, and naturopath with a passion for nature. She completed a Master of Public Health in 2017 through the University of Sydney. Her photographic work focuses on flowers and plants as a way of celebrating nature. She has been writing for Planet Ark since 2017, sharing positive environment stories, personal environmental experiences and perspectives.

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