CLICK, TAP, TWEET, LIKE
I have said it before, and I say it again. You are not alone! It probably seems as if you are facing this entire process by yourself. It doesn’t seem like you can count on anyone, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Social media has become an integral part to modern day organizations and businesses. (Rauschnabel, Felix & Hinsch, 2017) Why not use this to your benefit?
Every day, every minute, and right this second someone has just posted something online. At this moment, someone just had a baby, someone got engaged or married, graduated, or posted a funny video. At this moment, someone shared a post on their page and it has ten more views than it did a second ago. All the viewers read that post and heard its message. According to the Pew Research Center (2016), nearly 80% of internet users have a Facebook account. Furthermore, 32% are on Instagram and 24% are on Twitter. There are innumerable organizations that are out there dedicated to helping foster youth and social media has provided an accessible avenue to reach these organizations!
Social media gives individuals the opportunity to network and engage with peers and mentors through a virtual community. (Krishen, Berezan, Agarwal & Kachroo, 2016) This allows individuals to develop interpersonal relationships regardless of distance and with a freedom that wasn’t necessarily possible before the internet. This is beneficial to our cause because it allows foster youth an easy opportunity to network with those who are in similar situations as themselves and to find mentors and organizations devoted to their cause. Blogs, content communities and collaborative projects are all available specifically concerning issues surrounding foster youth. (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010)
FOLLOW OR FRIEND, YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Throughout my foster care years, I felt alone and lost. Moving from group home to group home, it was as if my friends, social workers, and foster parents were always temporary. It seemed that once I left each place, I didn’t have permanent people in my life to reach for that could make a difference. When some youth enter the system, their lives are changed forever and everything they thought they knew is completely different. During my time in the system, social media only seemed like an online place for people to share exciting and happy life moments with the rest of the world. Since I had this perception of social media, I saw little interest to participate and avoided it because I didn’t see anything positive in my life to share. It also made me feel envious of those whose lives seemed so simple and happy compared to mine.
I had this biased view well after I aged out of the system and didn’t recognize the possibilities that social media opens until a college professor introduced networking in an online teaching class. One of the most impactful assignments was to create a professional Twitter page and keep it updated for the entirety of the semester. At first, this assignment was incredibly difficult because I saw very few ways Twitter could benefit an organization. As I progressed through the semester however, I began to realize some of the benefits social media provides. Ali Mwila (2015) explains that although social media contains both positive and negative aspects, audiences can be targeted with positive advertisement and topics that specifically relate to the viewers. These types of tools can be used not only to spread positive messages for a cause, but it can reach individuals on a larger scale. The problem with aging out is that few people in society understand the system or the process. Foster youth who age out can try to explain what they went through by word of mouth, but as discussed in origins, this method alone has not proven effective enough to educate people. Social media can be a tool to help foster youth collaborate with others who share a passion for the same cause and begin an effort to educate the public on issues thousands of foster youth face every day.
Social media also allows individuals to network on a much broader scale. This is relevant, because in the professional world, networking allows individuals to progress and excel in their career. Kelly Wallace (2014) discusses the positive effects social media has on strengthening relationships since it allows a level of connectivity that supersedes distance or time. This is crucial to foster care youth because even through constant moves and temporary placements, these individuals can reach a level of connectivity and permanence through social media. There are so many different foster youths that I have come across, and without social media, I probably wouldn’t still be in touch with these individuals. Real Life Annie (RLA) has this mindset of social media by connecting with foster youth and organizations devoted to causes surrounding these youths. Through Facebook and Twitter, we continue to join organizations to provide support and insight for as many foster youths as possible. Networking through social media also allows RLA to connect with foster youth regardless of location or distance. It is our goal to make sure no foster youth feels like they are alone anymore!
SHARE AND POST YOUR MOMENT
Initially, I underestimated the possibilities of social media, but after giving it a chance, I now realize the influence it can make. It is important to not underestimate something when you are not fully informed. Social media and networking has given RLA the opportunity to share its cause and reach organizations so that foster youth can have the chance for a successful transition out of foster care and into society. RLA has grown and found its foster family and it is your turn to take the opportunity to find this network who will support you through all the transitions you are facing! You are not alone!
Below are select posts from our social media sites! Browse through below or check us out on Twitter and Facebook to begin networking with us!
At the bottom of the page we have provided a map that links to your state! Each link will contain state organizations that are committed to serving foster youth! If your state link has not yet been set up, please contact us so that we can make it a priority!
Empower Ireland was established by Maurice Fenton in 2009 to support and advocate for young people preparing to leave care and those that have moved into aftercare. They operate on a not-for-profit basis and only collaborate with businesses and organizations that operate within the conscious business model whereby reasonable profit may be achieved but not at the expense of people. Located in Ireland, they provide many great resources and guidance to help improve the aging out process. Check out their site and how they are making a difference at http://www.empowerireland.ie
Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68.
Krishen, A. S., Berezan, O., Agarwal, S., & Kachroo, P. (2016). The generation of virtual needs: Recipes for satisfaction in social media networking. Journal of Business Research, 69(11), 5248–5254.
Mwila, A. K. (2015, October 31). Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Society. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/positive-negative-effects-social-media-society-ali-kingston
Pew Research Center. (2016, November 11). Social Media Update 2016. Facebook usage and engagement is on the rise, while adoption of other platforms holds steady. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/
Rauschnabel, P. A., Felix, R. & Hinsch, C. (2017). Elements of strategic social media marketing: A holistic framework. Journal of Business Research, 70, 118–126.
Wallace, K. (2014, October 7). The upside of selfies: Social media isn’t all bad for kids. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/