On the eve of the official Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development “Rio+Social” invited the world to participate in a ten hour conference on the role social media plays in building a sustainable future. Attendees could access this conference via a live stream or in person. As, a relatively new convert to the power of social media, I choose to attend in person. We were encouraged to share trending topics with our networks around the world; tweet, pin, post, blog, tumble, connect! Rio+Social self-identified as “an innovative event and global conversation about the nexus of social media, technology, and sustainability”– and what an exciting conversation it was!
Messages in the sound bites that epitomize social media included: “more, more, MORE is the DNA of business–that needs to change; to young people: come up with new ideas, imagine a new world, don’t be contaminated by the past; challenge leaders to live up to their word–via social media; the economic crisis is not an excuse for not doing what we need to do for sustainable development; GO PLANET!; the power is yours–working together young people can save the planet and save humanity; change and dramatic change is what is needed; from youth: leaders you must listen!; we deliver powerful political messages via cell phones, using technology to support sustainable programs; social media is like water–dilution is the solution to narcissistic pollution; and ultimately from the twitter world–we are united by our hope for a better tomorrow. We must seize this moment.”
As I said, I’m relatively new to the world of social media and a skeptic at best to its power to change the world. But, during that 10 hours watching my twitter feed, seeing tweets from all over the world, and knowing that at least in Brazil (home of Rio+20) #rioplussocial was in the top trending hash tags that day, I became a believer. Thousands around the world are connecting across all types of borders about IMPORTANT, relevant environmental topics via social media. We are finding like-minded people, we are building movements, and we are making change—it was chilling to watch and participate. Don’t misunderstand, I still don’t believe that tweeting takes the place of writing legislators and “showing up” for important events–slacktivsm does not equal activism. However, activism via social media is the future of social movements and it is powerful.