Social Media and Compassion

April 9, 2010  |  Facebook

Remember the 1970’s classic TV show “Little House on the Prairie”?  Ma and Pa Ingalls, and all the gang from Walnut Grove?  You know it.  The other night, I was channel surfing and caught a few minutes just for old times sake.  One of the little Ingalls was caught in a well, and Pa Charles ran into town for help.  Mr. Olson yelled at Willie:  “Go ring the town bell as fast as you can and tell everyone to come running!”  Fast-forward to 2010.  Think of Facebook and Twitter as the modern equivalent of the town bell.  Case in point, this week’s mining disaster in West Virginia.  (More…)

Thousands of people all over the planet are reaching out to the grieving miners’ families on special Facebook pages as well as on Twitter.  Within 24 hours of one FB page being set up, close to 100,000 people had joined.  Soldiers in Iraq told the families they were “leaving the porch light on” for their loved ones.  You can’t deny the comfort factor there.  What do the families say?  Many of them are telling reporters the outpouring of online support proves that most people in society care for one another and want to pull together in times of tragedy.  Twitter fans from around the world are using the black “twibbon” on their posts to express their sympathy. 

There’s often a lot of criticism over Facebook… How it can actually discourage people from making and sustaining real-life friendships, instead using  their online acquaintances as a social crutch.  But let’s face it.  There are times when Facebook steps up to the plate as one of the most spectacular inventions in the history of the world.  In times of tragedy, FB and its Social Media cousins become a tool, helping  complete strangers show compassion for each other in a way they never could have in such staggering numbers before.  Come on now.  That CAN’T be a bad thing.

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5 Comments


  1. Facebook makes me feel connected to friends and family far away in a way that letters and phone calls never did. I joined a support group for a soldier who is a family member. He was much uplifted to find out that he had over 200 supporters. He said it kept him going out there in the desert. There have been days I’ve smiled at a silly post by my neice or even found out that my sister was having a bad day. A problem shared is a problem halved.

  2. Jeff… Wow. Am SO humbled by your wonderfully kind words.
    To be compared in any way shape or form with the legendary Paul Rimstead is something I will always remember. ;-)
    I’m sure if he were still alive, he’d have a website of his own… Who knows? Maybe even writing about Social Media. Ha!

    Meantime…. You’re right. For the Baby Boomers in the crowd in particular, Facebook has become a place where friends can climb onto a virtual barstool,hang out for awhile and make each other laugh — or keep each other from crying when life gets to be a little too much. What’s not to love about that? It’s like having your own version of “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name and you can belly up to the bar at whatever time of the day or night you please for a little conversation… or maybe just to inspire someone with a quote or a wacky picture or a line from a song.

    Social Media definitely has its critics. But you make so many great points about all the wonderful things there are to be said about it. What would Rimmer think? Somewhere out there in cyberspace, I think he’s smiling. ;-)

  3. Boy oh Boy !!! This is great. If I didn’t know any better, I could be tricked into believing you are the reincarnation of one of my heroes growing up…. The Late Paul Rimstead. Rimmer had the same style as you my dear. Within seconds into his colum, he had already said something that you felt was directed just to you and from that point on, his colum was merely a conversation between old friends…… at least that’s how he made you feel.
    This article did just that for me. I work roughly 70 hours a week and when I’m not working, I have a family to share my time with. Facebook has been able to provide me with an escape at certain points throughout my week that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I can catch up with old friends, comment on shared news or heart-ache or simply jump into an ongoing conversation that most times ends up being a comedic battle between friends and strangers…….. those strangers, in time, become friends and for that I am grateful.
    I am not the most secure person at parties or functions where there are a lot of new people but on facebook, I have the confidence that I lack in real social settings and in the end that confidence stays with me and I find myself more relaxed getting to know people I have just met.
    “Bras for the cause” “pink ribbons”, “yellow ribbons” or whatever the cause, people embrace the morals and passions shared by their facebook friends and milestones are being reached because of it.
    Musicians trying to break through are provided with an audiance and platform to share their dreams of music by providing a simple down-load.
    Amber Alerts as well as public warnings are spread so much quicker with this new forum and as much as some people find facebook threatening, it has proven to provide security in some situations that otherwise would have been deemed helpless.

    Thanks for the wonderful thoughts Karen. I guess I have found my new “Page 3″. Rimmer would be proud of you !!

    Jeff Leal
    General Manager
    Subaru of London
    jeffleal@subaruoflondon.com

  4. Lynn… I couldn’t have said it better! You make the crucial point that we must continue to foster REAL relationships in the communities where live. Social media should be seen for what is truly is: another tool in our communications tool-belt — not the “best” or the “brightest”… Perhaps just the “fastest”. ;-) And as for Avaaz… Thanks for the tip! Have never heard of it, but just checked it out online, and it looks fantastic! Cheers!

  5. The influence of Avaaz is another example of how online interactivity has resulted in lots of genuine good in the world! It’s wonderful to have fast, easy ways to express altruistic and compassionate beliefs. At the same time, it’s still important to foster flesh-and-blood communities and real time relationships. I hope that in time, social media will be seen as another valuable vehicle for human communication–but not the ONLY vehicle–and that people who prefer a slower, more personal pace will not feel excluded or left behind.

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