Our Say: Social media’s great role in social cohesion

WE’VE all heard plenty about the dark side of the internet.

We’ve heard plenty about the online trolls who pour their venom on innocent victims, wanting nothing more than to create a little pain.

We’ve heard plenty about the 21st century schoolyard bullies who no longer have to end their reign of terror when the bell rings at the end of the day, who can now pursue their targets even into their own bedroom at night.

And, worse, we’ve heard plenty about the sex predators who use the internet to hide their identity while preying on naive young boys and girls.

So it’s nice to be reminded of the great power of the internet and social media to unite a community in times of need.

You need only look at Facebook to see the number of people who are seeking help fundraising or looking for a much missed family pet.

Of course as crimes such as break and enters continue to plague most regional cities, it’s not uncommon to see people warning their neighbours to keep an eye out for suspicious characters.

Other people report stolen property, asking people to help them track down precious family heirlooms.

A case in point was the online community’s response to reports of a missing 12-year-old girl in Bathurst on Sunday evening.

Official confirmation of the news came from Bathurst police around 7.30pm and the details were soon shared on the Chifley Local Area Command Facebook page.

By 8.30pm, police had located the young girl safe and well and officers thanked the media for the role it had played in getting the message out there.

It’s a role all media outlets are happy to help with where we can, but one that would have been impossible for us just a little more than a decade ago.

Social media, particularly Facebook, allows news networks to publish articles to a broader audience than ever before – and reach those readers in just a few moments.

And in emergencies like Sunday’s, that can be a very powerful tool.

You would like to think that it was for these scenarios that social media was developed.

You would like to think that social cohesion rather than social division was the real strength of social media.

Just as cohesion, rather than division, is the real strength of community.