You can make a positive impact.
I was taken aback recently when I had two friends from my social network reach out to me to tell me that my posts on social media had made a profound positive impact on their lives. The first was a mother in the U.K. who had been worried about the health of her teenage son. She worked in the wellness world but she was watching her son gain weight and worried he had taken up smoking. Like many teens, he sullenly rejected any parental advice or suggestions.
Then, several years ago, she saw a post of mine on Facebook talking about doing Insanity workouts in my hotel room while traveling. She hadn’t heard about Insanity (a set of workout DVDs being marketed via infomercials in the U.S.), so she looked it up and bought the program as a gift for her son. As with previous attempts at intervention, he immediately threw it aside. “I thought it might have been a waste of time,” she said.
But a few weeks later, she saw that he had begun secretly doing the workouts. His body started changing and last week she sent me a photo of him looking fit as a fiddle. She wrote a message to me to let me know that my post about the Insanity program probably changed his life. Amazing!
The second friend is a dear woman who had two great kids in a difficult marriage. She was recently “happily divorced” and sharing custody of the kids every other weekend with her ex-husband. She e-mailed me a few times to say how much she enjoyed posts that I was sharing about my movement training and how I was engaging my kids in it. I had been posting videos of training together with my kids for the Spartan Races in Hong Kong.
A couple of months ago, she sent me a message saying, “I am following in your footsteps.” The kids had just completed their first Spartan Race and she had signed up for two! Then last week, she sent me a photo showing her own medal for completing her first Spartan Race. Amazing!
I am humbled and honored to know that my posts on social media have made a meaningful impact on other people’s lives. I like to think that the impact could reach even farther than this, considering that other friends and followers may have been moved in more subtle ways and never let me know about it. And as those friends go on to inspire their own networks, who knows how far the ripples might go?
I am also aware of the inspiration that I have received from others via social media. There are people who I admire and learn from regularly, both academically and professionally. There are people who have massively inspired me from a fitness and wellness standpoint. There are people whose posts I follow because they challenge me and push me to think about things in a different light. Many of these people I have never met. Some I count as friends. I haven’t always told them about the impact they have made on me.
I bring up these examples because the negative side of social media has been in the news a lot lately. Participating in social media is often rejected, either because it is too frivolous (sharing funny cat videos or pictures of your breakfast) or because it is too divisive (e.g. American politics, or Brexit). We must recognize that social media also has the ability to inspire us in more positive ways.
Perhaps it is time to move away from debating whether certain sites are “good” or “bad” and think instead about how we use them. Do you follow people on social media who educate you, inspire you and push you to be a better person? Do you unfollow people who consume your time without adding any real value to your life?
And what do you share with the people who follow you? What would you share if you knew you could really make a difference? As I’ve learned recently, you can. Does your social media footprint make the world a better place? It can and it should.