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Our View: Social media offers new ways to help neighbors, strangers

 

 

 

Social media has its dangers and drawbacks. It is often a source of misinformation, deception and scams and can often appeal to the worst in our nature through cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking and exploitation and crimes against children. 

 

The lists of the ills and dangers of social media is, indeed, long. 

 

For all the harm social media can unleash, it should be noted people still find social media useful. As the saying goes, "One billion Chinese people can't be wrong." 

 

Neither can the estimated 2.77 billion people -- roughly 36 percent of the world's population -- who use social media. 

 

Social media is a source of information (68 percent of people in the U.S. get at least some of their news through social media platforms) and entertainment. 

 

It has also been a form of community building, linking people who share a common interest regardless of where they are located. 

 

Social media communities function like conventional communities in many respects and one of the best ways is by helping each other in times of need. 

 

There are dozens of charitable fund-raising site, the most commonly known among them being GoFundMe, which raises an estimated $650 million annually. About a third of that goes to meet the needs of people with medical issues, with the balance going toward other sorts of emergencies or specific needs. 

 

On Tuesday, three people lost virtually all of their possessions in a Starkville house fire. A GoFundMe account for their benefit was set up the next day with a goal of raising $10,000. By Friday morning, $7,610 had been raised. 

 

These kinds of stories happen every day all across the country. They are testaments not only to the generosity of Americans but the enormous power social media platforms yield. 

 

Previously, raising funds for these kinds of needs relied mainly on word-of-mouth and was largely confined to a person's actual community. 

 

But social media platforms know no such constraints. When the call goes out, the message is received quickly and broadcast to potentially millions of people. The response is quick, too, generating donations of a volume and an immediacy previously unknown. 

 

Granted, people should perform their due diligence before making contributions through these platforms. There is always a potential for abuse no matter what form fund-raisers take, whether it's a coffee can at a local store or a huge social media platform such as GoFundMe. 

 

The fact remains, however, that social media can be a great means of raising funds for those with legitimate needs. 

 

That success reinforces the idea that in times of need, we need not always turn to our governmental institutions. People helping people is often the best, most efficient way to meet those needs. 

 

For all its ills, social media has proven it can be a powerful tool for good.

 

 

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