Prosocial Networking

Like many of you, I watched Simon Sinek’s insightful, 15 minute response to the “millennial question” at the start of the year when it went viral. And, like many people who are actually older than the millennial generation, I both nodded in condescending agreement and also felt ashamed that whilst I didn’t belong to the age group, I belonged to the set of people who are addicted to incremental social media response stimuli on their smartphones.

But what can a millennial, or even a lapsed Gen X-er such as me, do about this situation?

One option of course is to go Cold Turkey. Give up Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, even the phone itself. For people that know me, that’s reasonably unlikely.

A small handful of recent headlines regarding social media / smartphone addiction

I can also try to use social media for something a little more politically highbrow, but that in itself can be futile: If I favourite a pithy, clever remark about a President Elect’s supposed hypocrisy, it is not going to make an election result change, and if I retweet another graphic about how the people who voted against Brexit will have to live with it the longest, it’s not going to negotiate Britain’s exit for us.

So my New Year’s Resolution is to be more like my neighbour Siobhan.

Over the Christmas period, much like everyone else, Siobhan used her smartphone to post a picture, with some accompanying text, that would appear in a news feed in front of other people within her social network. However, instead of posting a selfie or a sunset, Siobhan posted to Nextdoor asking neighbours to get involved in a local Nourish food drive. Thanks to social media, and the ability to connect with like minded neighbours, Siobhan and her friend Louise collected 300kg of food. Thanks to Nourish, this food was redistributed to families and individuals in need.

It’s not a sexy selfie, but it is a whole bunch of food going to help those in need. Amazing work Siobhan!

So the next time I think I’m joining some form of clever movement by agreeing with the digital echo chamber of bearded, real ale drinking, cycling enthusiast, Guardian reading, comic book enthusiasts that make up my Facebook friendship group (Hi guys!), I’ll remember that it won’t change anything in the world.

What Siobhan is doing, however, could really make a difference.

Full disclosure: I recently joined the Nextdoor team to start their operations here in the UK, so yes, this is somewhat of a sales pitch, but having used community building and growth marketing in the past to unite music fans, matchmake single friends, visualise furniture in 3d and sell clothing, it is fascinating to see the potential of social media for social good.

Epilogue: I have been thinking about using the pun in the title of this post for a while now. I was worried the founders of the company would either i. hate it because it is so cheesy and so obvious or worse ii. like it and start using it. Let’s keep this under the radar OK?