Can Social Media Save and Destroy Lives?

Keeping up to date on whatever your social media outlet of choice has become engrained into our daily routines. There is a constant sense of urgency to stay on top of ever trending topics. Although the majority of tweets and statuses are light hearted and informative at most, they could actually help or harm lives if utilized appropriately.

Social media lets any individual out there with general computer and internet literacy to become their own PR agent. The problem though, is that many of us do not consider our updates as a PR campaign for our lives. In most cases, we are simply venting or sharing information, but what if someone else decided to spin that information?

That is exactly what happened with Amanda Knox, the American arrested in Italy for the murder of her roommate from her study abroad. The media did not have much information to produce stories so they went to Knox’s online profiles. They took an old soccer nickname, “Foxy Knoxy” that she had used as her MySpace username, and used it to create a character. Along with the name they discovered, the media also uncovered several drunken videos of her on YouTube and compromising photos from Facebook. Surely, when each of these items was posted individually, they seemed harmless. Once they were compiled together and misconstrued in the media, they harmed Knox’s court case. The prosecutors used her promiscuous media character to ruin her credibility as a studious and wholesome young American. Although these social media postings were not the be all and end all to this young woman’s case, they did not help it.

A scene from the Grey's Anatomy twitter episode

In a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy, Twitter was used to save lives. One of the teaching surgeons on the show decided to teach her students the process of complex surgeries via tweets. The point was to reach a broader audience in real time. One person in the operating room was delegated to tweet what was happening. Those tweets went to the phones of numerous first year residents who were unable to attend the surgery in person, but eager to learn. The Chief of the Seattle Grace Hospital was completely against the idea of tweeting until he witnessed its benefits first hand. In one of his surgeries he was having trouble developing a viable option to save a patient. One of the residents had been tweeting against his will the entire surgery. When she tweeted that they were at a crossroads, another hospital tweeted back at them offering a medical suggestion. The Chief said the suggestion would work, but they did not have the proper materials. With one more tweet they were able to reach another hospital in the area that did have the materials, and saved the patient’s life. Although this was a fictional episode on a television show, it proves that social media is impacting all aspects of life, and could potentially save them in the very near future.

The next time you check your social media outlet of choice think about all of the creative ways you can share information. Who knows, maybe your tweet will save someone’s life or help your case if you ever find yourself in court!


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