Is Facebook Good, After All?

Image: NPR

Using the app as a crisis response/prevention platform reminds us we are all human, and never alone.

by Allison Ramirez

It’s easy to get carried away on Facebook. Minutes pass us by as we watch time lapse videos of recipes we might not ever make. We show off cute babies and make sure to let our exes know how well we’re doing since they’ve been gone. Lately and very publicly, we’ve used the platform as a place to debate politics, often leading to breakups with family members we don’t see eye-to-eye with via the *BLOCK* button.

The platform has simplified the way we share our feelings of excitement, confusion and dread (to name a few more involved emotions) with platform-specific emojis. Long gone are the days of the all-encompassing “Like” and though all of this may seem trivial, Facebook is becoming more than just a place for sharing dog videos and inducing vacation FOMO. Getting wrapped up in the superficialities of such an app is the norm, but it does seem that young people (50% of 18–24 year olds check Facebook as soon as they wake up) could be reaching for a deeper connection via the more than decade-old social network.

With five new Facebook profiles created every second, the platform continues to grow at a rapid rate, and holds the social media crown with 1.86 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide. This is not only good news, because you can stay connected to the people you care about in good times; Facebook has also become the place we go (first naturally, and now carefully, with new test tools provided by the app itself) to stay connected when things go horribly wrong.

Image: Facebook

One way Facebook is working as a force for social good: the company began implementing a disaster response system in 2014 after Typhoon Ruby pummeled the Philippines. Last year, that same Safety Check was employed for the first time in the U.S. following a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The feature made it possible for people in the affected area to mark themselves safe with the click of a button and in turn, alert friends and family members that their loved ones were okay in the midst of a very big American tragedy. In addition to Safety Check, Facebook has made it easier for users to chat with crisis organizations like the Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association and suicide hotlines worldwide.

Most recently, the platform rolled out a tool that will use artificial intelligence to identify suspicious activity and suicide risk in users. Though Facebook has offered suicide prevention resources for years, this is an elevated measure in response to some users’ attempts at taking their own lives while streaming on Facebook Live for anyone/everyone to see. With suicide being the second leading cause of death across the globe among 15–29 year-olds, Facebook’s innovative real-time suicide prevention tool could assist in getting high-risk users the help they need before it’s too late.

Image: CBS News

The company’s ability to shift gears depending on what’s going on in the world (in and outside) of Facebook is telling; their goal of connecting those who are suffering with others who can help will hopefully be the nudge fellow networks need to implement similar tools. Social support is a big part of what’s made the app so successful, and we need it now, more than ever. We can disengage, push against, or flow with the way social, and modern media culture is expanding. Recognizing where we stand is the first step.

As marketers, it’s important to remember that there is more to humanity than what we see on the screen in today’s modern media culture; those followers we put so much time and effort into building are in fact real people, and a little empathy can go a long way. We can post our branded content while watching kitty GIFs on a loop, as long as we remember that we also play a bigger role in bringing people together, connecting on a deeper level, and that our presence can make a long-lasting impact on very real lives.

Allison Ramirez is a Community Manager at Mistress.