How Millennials Use the Internet to Make a Difference
By: Kaustubh Mishra
Published On: November 15, 2017
‘Millennials’, or Gen Y as they are commonly referred to, have been abundantly categorized as narcissists with impulsive traits, including but not limited to, an unhealthy obsession with technology and social media.
But would it have really helped if they were born at a time when the world was still nascent to this explosion in technology? Understanding the newer generation is a little more complex than one might think, especially when it comes to understanding their relationship with activism and social causes. This becomes all the more imperative at a time when communication between people is widespread and almost instantaneous. As one would expect, this has helped philanthropic activities to take a whole new shape.
This article attempts to broadcast some examples in which people have used the internet to save the day.
2015 Chennai floods were described as the worst flood in the century for the city. Losses incurred were estimated to be somewhere between 3 and 16 billion USD. With widespread devastation and essential supplies cut, it became imperative to look for new and innovative solutions to make the best out of a very bad situation.
As the events unfolded in Chennai, it became more and more apparent that the significance of social media could not be ignored as conventional means became either completely incapacitated or broke down to a level where any sustained relief effort became too burdensome.
Every time the networks improved people flocked to social media platforms like Facebook, and Twitter to reach out to their loved ones, constantly updating them about their situation and whereabouts. Facebook even implemented its ‘Safety Check’ feature where people could click on a tick mark to tell their friends that they were safe. At the same time #ChennaiFloods and #ChennaiRescue trended on twitter bringing in people from all over the country due to which various crucial volunteering efforts were mobilised. One armyman even pointed out that it was the first time in his life that he saw more volunteers than army personels in a rescue effort.
However, the impact of social media wasn’t just limited to volunteering efforts. Many efforts were made to raise funds so that better rescue initiatives could be executed. Plenty of crowdsourcing platforms, including Impact Guru, were utilised in raising funds for the effort. Through these food, medicine, transport and other essential support equipments were mobilised. Collective fundraisers went hand in hand with individual transactions. With ATMs defunct, people turned to Paytm to transfer money.
It is hard to quantitatively estimate the impact social media played but one thing is for sure, and that is without them, any sustained effort would have lacked the impetus it needed to save the lives of millions living in the city.
Back in the day if a loved one went missing, it took a whole day to publish an ad in the paper, or even print pamphlets to distribute. Even the authorities required a 24 hour period of no contact to register a missing FIR. Now it is much easier to simply post a picture and contact on Facebook, Twitter, or Whatsapp.
This is so because a vast number of people can be reached online and made aware about the situation, which simply isn’t possible conventionally. This method is also much more effective than simply putting up missing posters because people can always keep a lookout and match the person with the pictures posted online. Finally, social media allows people to keep in touch with the latest updates such as where the person was last seen, information from the family, details from hospitals, police reports, etc.
In one instance, a Mumbai girl studying in class VI, who went missing on a tuesday morning, was found through a massive social media campaign. Following an appeal from the parents, people took to facebook and twitter to join in on the search. #FindAlina trended on twitter with people offering tangible information about her whereabouts. Even a vigil was organised outside her school through this effort.
Finally, she was found at CST station and took to facebook to thank everyone who helped find her.
When it comes to social change through legal reforms, it is important for people to organise and make their voices heard. No political system can exist for long if it ignores the will of the people. Traditionally, people have done so by participating in rallies, protest marches, bandhs, strikes, etc. But these could be ineffective because either they quickly fizzle out; or they turn violent violent, prompting an outrage and an immediate shut-down.
Comes in social media.
Through online petitions, a large group of people can quickly organise themselves demonstrating the overwhelming support a cause enjoys. Moreover, this has a multiplicative effect. People are more likely to lend voice to a cause they support if it already enjoys some momentum. Also, the ease with which someone can participate is quite remarkable. With merely a few clicks, one can add himself/herself to the petition, without much effort.
One such campaign is about the recent implementation of GST and its impact on women. The tax code resulted in no reduction in the cost of sanitary napkins as the 12% tax reamained unchanged. In a country where 70% of the women can’t afford them, it becomes imperative to raise a voice. A recent petition on Change.org argues just that.
The petition seeked either some reduction in or complete abolition of goods and services tax on sanitary napkins and has garnered more than 3,00,000 signatures, forcing Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women & Child Development, to respond, in which she pledged to forward the petition to Arun Jaitley, who is the Union Finance Minister.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Viral Campaign
Take the example of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Although, most people were ill-informed about the disease, just the sheer number of influential people taking up the challenge made this campaign go so viral that even three since its inception, it’s still talked about with immense enthusiasm. In 2014, the ALS Association had over 3 million people pouring buckets of freezing water on themselves and according to sources the campaign has raised over 155 million USD for ALS research till date.
You can watch a video here of Prof. Stephen Hawking’s family taking the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Make A Wish Foundation
Through social media, many organisations put forward calls to action, which are often done to help people going through a rough time. One such organisation is ‘Make A Wish’ foundation, which helps people in unfortunate situations by making their wishes come true. They achieve this by having a very strong social media presence, like many other non-profits. This is necessary because organisations must reach out to a lot of potential donors and it is much easier to put forward a detailed overview about the need on social media.
The foundation grants one wish every forty minutes and its influence goes up to the highest office in The United States, which is that of The President.
Crowdfunding sites are fairly new to the world stage, with almost all of them being less than a decade old. These sites work by collecting funds from a large number of contributors for a cause, which could be anything from a creative project to the more severe medical ones.
To take an example, look at Puja. Suffering from chronic liver failure, she needed a liver transplant desperately. However, she and her husband, Anurag, were unable to meet the expenses. So, they turned to crowdfunding for a solution. To their surprise not only did their campaign meet its goal, it did so in record time by raising about 12 lakhs in 2-3 days.
Both examples show that crowdfunding is a very powerful tool to raise large sums of funds very quickly for emergencies such as those described above.