How Social Media Can Inspire Social Good: Using a Hashtag to Raise Awareness About Modern Day Slavery

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Recently the popular social networking site, Facebook, just celebrated it’s 10th birthday. With over 500 million active users, it is easy to see that most people use social media to stay connected with others, share photos with their friends, and create their own digital story via cyberspace.

Social media has completely changed the way we interact with each other, the way we receive our daily news, and the way we interact with some of our favorite brands or companies. Social media allows “individuals to gather and express themselves in a much more simple and immediate fashion. By giving people this capability, they not only have the ability to share ideas, opinions and other contents, but also (if they wish) gain notoriety, and expand their influence,” says Gil Pinzano of Shout Me Loud.

By making it easier for people to share ideas and information, social media has become the perfect vehicle for companies like Make-A-Stand Lemonaid and Stillmotion to raise awareness about global social issues like modern day slavery.

Using a hashtag in it’s title, Stillmotion’s new documentary #standwithme is the perfect example of how social media can be a powerful tool to inspire social good. The film follows the story of a 10-year-old girl named Vivienne Harr who is using lemonade to raise awareness about child slavery. After hearing about Vivienne’s story, the Stillmotion team “dropped everything and dove into the story, feeling like we could use our skills as filmmakers and storytellers to really bring this story to the world,” says #standwithme co-director Grant Peelle.

Immediately after meeting Vivienne, Stillmotion spent ten months traveling the world and learning about the issue first hand, specifically in Namibia, Ghana, the Dominican, and Nepal. As a company that believes in the power of storytelling, they knew they could use their skills to be the voice to those who didn’t have one. Peelle explains, “We have a film that we feel not only illuminates the issue of slavery today, but also makes it very approachable and empowering by showing us all how our daily decisions can make a difference.”

With such a powerful backstory, I knew I had to accept the offer to be a part of the social media strategy the second co-director and Stillmotion founder Patrick Moreau asked me to watch a rough copy of the film. As someone who lives and breathes social media daily, one thing that struck me the most about the film was the use of the hashtag in it’s title. It wasn’t until Moreau explained to me that the title represents “an invitation for people to talk about and stand together against modern day slavery,” when I realized how many people and different platforms Stillmotion could reach by encouraging people to embrace the hashtag.

The truth is that the amount of money we contribute to social issues, like modern day slavery, will have no effect if we aren’t openly talking about and acknowledging their existence. After seeing #standwithme and doing some of my own personal research, I was amazed at the magnitude of people modern day slavery affects today, which is estimated to be over 30 million people worldwide. In the two short months I have been working with Stillmotion on #standwithme, I have seen how encouraging people to use their voice on social media to make a difference has influenced the way we as individuals can shape and change society by simply using our voice and creativity.

One social media event in particular that provided leverage for #standwithme were the worldwide Instameetups that took place on National Freedom Day (February 1st, 2014). Using Instagram, Stillmotion asked people from around the world in major cities to host Instameetups where people would take photos as a group, upload them to Instagram, and share them by tagging them with the hashtag “#standwithme.”

Instagram made it possible for people across the globe to stand together on the same day against child slavery in a way that wasn’t possible before. As I scrolled through some of the images after the day was over, I was inspired by how many people used lemons and their vision to talk about child slavery through photography. Social media has allowed people to use their voice in the way they communicate best — whether it’s visually or through words. Because modern day slavery can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, it is easy to forget that it is possible to talk about dark issues in a positive way.

Whether they are doing it on purpose or not, Stillmotion is using the hashtag #standwithme to tell a powerful story and create a community of people who are passionate about making a difference. Every time you search #standwithme, you can see all of the tweets, quotes, and thoughts people have had about the film and about modern day slavery. As human beings, we thrive off of feeling connected to people, feeling like we belong, and communicating with people who believe in the same things that we do. Even though we may not all live in the same city as one another, social media and the hashtag #standwithme has given people an opportunity to connect, share their thoughts, and make a difference. It is important for us to realize that, if we have a large following on social media or if we actively engage on social media daily and we aren’t using it to make a difference—we are wasting an opportunity.

Social media has allowed us to have a voice and to be the voice for the people who need it the most—and Stillmotion is doing just that with by creating conversation through #standwithme. Social media (for the most part) is free, and it is up to us to decide how we will use it. #standwithme is just the beginning of using social media for social good, but it doesn’t have to be the last.

Before you tweet always think—how can I use 140 characters to make a difference?

If you want to learn more about #standwithme or attend one of it’s 30 premieres—you can visit www.standwithmemovie.com. Join the movement and add your voice to the conversation.

To the Stillmotion team: meeting you all has been such a blessing to me. As someone who defines herself as a “humanitarian entrepreneur” you all exemplify the things I find the most important, which is using your talent to make a difference in the world. I know that you all could have chosen anyone to be your voice on social media, but I can’t thank you enough for how much you all have trusted me. I will do all that I can to make sure we make a difference. From the bottom of my heart, you all inspire me daily and I know this is just the beginning for you guys. I appreciate you all for what you do so much. -Em

Social Media Week

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