What’s first on your list when you think of ways to change the world? It’s probably some form of person-to-person interaction: volunteering, philanthropy, activism, or any other live and engaged act of good. They don’t call it “social” justice for nothing. What if we’re limiting ourselves though, in what we imagine as world-changing? The way that we interact socially is miles away from how our parents’ generation did, and a lot of people believe it’s high time to shift our social impact focus toward the future. And as we move towards a tech-dominant social landscape, we each carry a tool that is revolutionizing the way we make positive impact on ourselves and the world: the smartphone.
Your phone is key to improved communication, prosocial behavior, and your ability to create change. There, I said it. What if, instead of distracting us and impeding our ability to connect, emerging tech is actually providing groundbreaking new ways to create and support community? While we tend to shy away from imagining exactly what our phones do to our minds and social skills, we should instead get very excited about their potential. Here’s why:
1. They introduce us to – and engage us in – causes we never knew about
The best example of this? Facebook fundraisers. Say what you will about Facebook, but the donation platform they’ve implemented in the last couple years has had unprecedented impact. Just last summer, shares of a fundraiser for pro bono immigration law group RAICES turned a $1,500 fundraising goal into $15 million in donations.
While many people were already sharing updates about the political situation at the border, the “add a fundraiser” button empowered users to communicate a clear and simple call to action: here’s the issue, and here’s how you can help. And this simple process allowed RAICES, a niche-cause Southwestern charity organization, to become a household name. Unlike traditional crowdfunding, Facebook connects users to vetted organizations and suggests causes that might align with the user’s post content. The discovery aspect that Facebook fundraisers offer, coupled with the simple call-to-action model, is as forward-thinking as it is seamless – and it’s presenting a new kind of opportunity for us to reap the benefits of giving back every time we check our phones.
2. They cut out roadblocks toward making change in innovative new ways
Sure, this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the “free cash for good” model. But boy does it bear repeating. Companies like Charity Miles (and, of course, Inspired) are innovating the way we create impact by removing the friction from giving: namely, making it free and instant. Whether by generating donations by the number of miles you walk or funding arts education every time you buy groceries, this model connects our daily routines to social impact, which initiates a cycle of feel-good, prosocial behavior. Frictionless, free, and as easy as adding an app to your phone? Sounds like the ideal conditions for an increasingly busy and in-debt generation. A type of compassionate, prosocial behavior that evolves with us – and with the generational challenges we face.
3. They bring storytelling – and the kind of human connection it builds – to the next level.
As long as we’re vigilant about confirming the sources of our information, social media is perhaps the most direct, engaging way to tell stories about people – and get others involved. A mailer from the ACLU simply can’t capture our attention and spur our compassion the same way a first-person video account of a single mother experiencing poverty can. And social media storytelling isn’t limited to heart-string-tugging stories either; it can be a beautiful way to celebrate a community victory, and increase a sense of joy and belonging. A major component of social media’s power, of course, is what kind of content you seek out and engage with. When we aim to incorporate a little good into our day, we do more good ourselves.
Ultimately, the moral of the story is don’t be afraid: as we move into the future of tech, our good nature is moving with us – giving us innovative, exciting, accessible ways to change the world like never before. Through social media and social cause apps, we’re already proving that the impact of tech is dependent on how we use it – and when we aim to do good for others on a daily basis, we get those good vibes back in spades.