The Benefits of Social Media to Civic Engagement
[Ed. note: This blog was originally published on 1/11/12. Updated 4/13/12.]
Experts are constantly examining the effects of "living socially" on our well-being. And up until recently, most of the focus has been on the detriments of Facebook and Twitter.
The New York Times reported this week that many researchers are "looking to Facebook, Twitter and the rest for opportunities to identify problems, to hear cries for help and to provide information and support." While the main focus of the reporting relates to adolescents, it does point to a trend of experts recognizing the positive effects of social engagement.
On a panel at Aspen Ideas last summer, Mayor Cory Booker shared specific examples of how he communicates with his constituents via Twitter. "Social media is a deeper, richer connection to find ways to substantively make connections," he said. These days, Booker points out, nearly everybody has a cell phone, even in poorer, minority communities. "I can engage with my residents on the fly." UPDATE 4/13/12: Booker used Twitter to tell folks he was OK after pulling a neighbor from a house fire last night.
Social media equals power in the hands of the people. Of course the world witnessed this during the Arab Spring, but it is evident in the US, too.
"What is incredibly disempowering...and toxic to the soul, is to feel like you have no ability to influence your environment and surroundings. And now social media has given everybody a platform to multiply your ability to make a difference," said Booker. "It's a very powerful thing."
Watch a quick clip of Booker below.