Social media has changed this year. It ain’t just about selfies anymore.
Being stuck inside, often alone or separated from loved ones, we are spending more time on social media, and being more vulnerable with what we post. Data in the U.S. and the U.K. shows a 55 percent increase in people sharing more on social media than before the pandemic, with people now being 30 percent more likely to open up about personal struggles than before. The findings also show that we’re less concerned about self-image on social media, and that we’re looking to it primarily for inspiration, entertainment, and escapism, but also as an essential news resource and a critical way to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.
Business Insider expects platforms like Instagram and Snapchat to see more sustained long-term boosts in usage compared to Facebook, which COVID has pulled out of decline.
“We’ve been seeing a movement away from social social media and more towards what you might call social justice media,” says Ryan Walker, CEO of TSMA Consulting.
The Social Fight for Justice
As the Black Lives Matter uprising has swept the nation, one study shows 86 percent of social media users reporting a shift reflected in social media, with almost half of respondents acknowledging a shift in their own posting style. People are posting fewer selfies, for example, instead sharing information and resources related to social justice instead, or content supporting a cause.
Walker calls this a shift in the zeitgeist, and says we can expect to see more of an evolution as social media matures into a tool for positive change. “When Instagram launched a decade ago, it was mostly a fun diversion—originally just a way to stylize your photos with filters,” Walker says. But now hashtags on Instagram, as well as Twitter, are used in political organizing and even counter protesting. K-pop fans hijacked right wing hashtags during election season to flood the feed with K-pop or, in one instance, pictures of pancakes. In the case of the latter, this blocked right wingers from using the hashtags to get information and updates about rallies.
An Agency Connecting People Through Generosity
Walker is one of the forces behind the changing face of social media. His social media firm helps professionals develop, manage, and grow their online profiles. But he’s also dedicated to giving back.
As TSMA has grown, Walker says he’s become increasingly concerned with using social media for good, and not just for professional purposes. When he and his team were introduced to @orphanedstarfish, a foundation that supports orphanages in 29 countries, they took the initiative to donate services and build the foundation’s digital presence, leading to hundreds of thousands in donations during their digital fundraising gala.
They’ve also developed a complimentary, three-month modular social media training program to support job creation for Native youth in Taos, in conjunction with True Kids 1 and University of New Mexico. TSMA has also provided digital training to youth in developing communities through Compton’s eARTh Project, Chicago Summer Stories, and St. Louis Summer Stories.
In response to the pandemic, TSMA holds ongoing complimentary social media seminars for actors out of work due to COVID-19, held every month with top industry executives.
“Social media is about community,” says Walker. “None of this means anything without people. If we’re not bringing people together, and making connections where they matter, how are these platforms really moving the needle for their careers?”
It’s clear that social media users are operating more from the heart, and Walker is no exception. “When we have a chance to give in some meaningful way, we take it,” he says. “The future of social media is not about selfies. It’s about adding value and supporting each other. It’s more heart-centered.”