Using Twitter as a Virtual Organizing Meeting for Nonprofits


When trying to build a coalition or community organize around a specific event or cause, it is necessary to have community organizing meetings to help coordinate efforts, disseminate information and build your database for future calls to action. To be effective, online community organizing must be done in conjunction with boots on the grounds efforts in order to reach the level of success that most advocacy groups desire. However, the challenge for advocacy groups in online community organizing is identifying and capitalizing on opportunities for engagement. The functionality of Twitter provides several opportunities for advocacy groups, and this week I will be discussing how to use twitter as a virtual organizing meeting for week 3 of my evidence based Twitter Study.

Online activism can be expressed in three different ways. When used by boots on the ground individuals, it has the ability to create awareness and draw in individuals who are not at the event. With using this approach only, the primary purpose serves to create awareness and boost interested for increased engagement on the ground for future events. Slacktivism,also known as arm-chair activist, are typically criticized for mounting protest using social media while being to lazy to participate on the ground. However, this pessimistic view does not take into consideration the disabled, non-participants being activated, travel limitations, and so forth. The last and most effective expression of online activism uses a hybrid model of coordinating between slacktivists and “boots on the ground” in an effort to expand reach on social media.

This week, I wanted to explore using Twitter to facilitate a virtual organizing meeting via a live tweet chat format. In this tweetchat, I wanted to provide information on how to use twitter to identify collaborators and create allies. Most importantly, I wanted to help users understand twitter reach, and how to maximize hashtags and followers to expand reach. Last, I wanted participants to help identify non-social work organizations and individuals that social workers should be engaging with on Twitter. I used a 7 question open ended survey for participants to identify organizations and hashtags of non-social work organizations to create a master list for social workers. To view the archive of Sunday’s tweetchat, you can view

Tweets of the Week

Also, Sprout Social responding to a tweet is a perfect example of how mentions and tweeting to influential accounts can help get your brand and message in front of a bigger audience.

Challenges, Barriers, Limitations

By using this type of forum for a community organizing meeting, I wanted to narrow the focus on the highest priority information to be disseminated and the highest priority action I wanted participants to complete. Understanding twitter reach and asking participants to complete the survey in order to create a master list was the highest priorities were the top priorities for this chat. When using this type of forum, you have the ability to engage people from a variety of background. However, you should not assume because someone has access to a certain technology that they also understand how to manipulate it and extract data.

We are crossing the halfway mark of the #SWHelper Evidenced Based Twitter Study. Join us next week on April 6th at 3PM EST using the hashtag #swhelper. We will be discussing using twitter for advocacy, and a detail article on Sunday’s chat is forthcoming.

Community Organizing and Creating Allies on Twitter

Twitter can be very noisy due to an enormous amount of tweets and random people who can make their way into your timeline. In the beginning when you are trying to become accustomed to the twitter culture, twitter lists, faves, retweets, and obtaining followers may seem like another exercise of gaining friends on Facebook. Unlike Facebook, twitter will never ask, ” Do you know this person”? This lack of barriers provide a unique opportunity for twitter users to seek out collaborators and allies for a particular cause, shared passion, or to community organize.

Twitter Reach
Example of Twitter Reach

Private accounts on Twitter receive the least amount of connectivity and interactivity. Most people will not follow back a private account because you can’t retweet anything insightful or informational posted by a private user because its private. If you approach Twitter with no expectation of privacy and that everything you tweet will be for public consumption, your experience and how you use it will begin to take new form.

This is week three in the Live Twitter Study I am conducting to explore the practical uses for twitter in the scope of social work practice and policy. On Sunday, we will be discussing how to use twitter to community organize and identify non-social work allies, as well as discussing why creating non-social work allies are important to promoting social work policy and practice.

Also, I am asking participants to be prepared to share @organizations and/or any hashtags for the purpose of creating a twitter list of allies and possible collaborators for everyone to have access.  Also, we will be discussing twitter reach and what it means in terms of disseminating an awareness campaign, action alerts, important resources, or urgent information as a prelude to understanding potential reach.

Join us on March 30th at 3PM EST to discuss using twitter for community organizing and creating allies using the hashtag #swhelper. Be ready to @ your favorite nonprofits and organizations to share because you believe they should be natural allies to the social work profession.

Also View:

Beth Kanter’s Community Organizing Twitter Rules

Using Twitter as a Comment Box: Week One Wrap #SWHelper Twitter Study

Does anyone remember the wooden comment boxes positioned conspicuously at places of business? Customers would use these comment cards to either praise or complain about their service interaction. The majority of the time, consumers would not have any idea if there was any action taken on behalf of the business as a result of their comment card.

Some consumers who felt strongly about their service interactions would follow-up with corporate headquarters via snail mail or email. However, the response time for feedback could easily take months to reach the consumer. Week One of the #SWhelper Twitter study looked at using Twitter as a comment box in the scope of social work policy and practice.

suggestionboxWhen you think about it, how often do you see comment boxes in today’s society? They are rare if not extinct because corporations have learned to respond fairly quickly to consumer likes as well as their dislikes to prevent small issues from trending on various social media outlets.

Businesses have learned to harness the power of social media not only as a marketing tool but as a way to provide customer service and improve public relations. In the scope of nonprofits, social policy and practice, these entities have not spent an equal focus on the power of social media from institution to consumer (B2C) or from an institution to institution (B2B) perspective.

In my opinion, it appears most of these institutions tend to view social media as a digital bulletin board with little to no engagement. However, it must not be forgotten that aspiring students, currently enrolled students, and practitioners are consumers, and associations, academic institutions, continuing education organizations are the institutions of services when we look to measure and analyze interactions through social media engagement. It is also must be acknowledged by the nonprofit and public sector that consumers of services can still become brand advocates or brand haters which can affect funding and outcomes.

Marketing departments in these institutions are acutely aware of the necessity for social media interaction from a marketing perspective in order to promote their respective programs to increase enrollment or drive fundraising goals. Corporations have learned the hard way not to ignore dissatisfied consumers’ social media mentions as it can correlate to declining profits and create a public relations crisis. Can this same dynamic correlate to decreased social work enrollment or influence policy decisions?

Week One: Evaluation of an Emerging Issue

On March 11, 2014, I saw an awesome tweet about free #socialworker T-Shirts being given away at the SXSW 2014 Interactive Tech Conference in Austin, Texas. The same day, I sent a tweet to them expressing concerns once I realized it was social marketing firm using the #socialworker hashtag, and I received a response from them a few hours later.

“Hiplogiq, the Parent company for Social Compass, developed a marketing campaign using the hashtag #socialworker to attract industry leaders to their booth. They also provided free #socialworker T-shirts to visitors, and it appeared to have been a huge success. The company tweeted out pictures of the Hootsuite and PepsiCoJobs Teams taking pictures with their #SocialWorker T-Shirts. My first reaction was how awesome for Social Workers to get some publicity at a major Tech Conference. Then, it dawned on me that this company has successfully branded #SocialWorker as a marketing campaign for their social marketers.”

Ultimately, Social Compass agreed to participate in our live #SWHelper tweet chat on March 16th as a way of engaging the social work community and identifying concerns within the community. Not only did they agree to participate, the Co-Founder of the parent company, Hiplogiq, felt it was important enough to engage us directly and not designate an appointee.


There appears to be some confusion on the measuring metrics of social media as well as how it translates into the social sciences. Until recently, likes, shares, retweets, follows, and faves in the context of Facebook and twitter respectively were seen as the primary metrics for measuring engagement.  However, when businesses designed campaigns and developed products based solely on those metrics, they begin to realize this data may not be aligned with the general populace. Due to social platforms, such as Facebook limiting organic reach in an effort to sell ads or obtain pay for promotion, this data alone does not provide access to accurate organic traffic and spontaneous feedback when needed.

On the other hand, the duality of Twitter in both its simplicity and complexity is what makes this tool a researcher’s dream. Although Twitter has incorporated a pay for promotion within their structure, it has not instituted any barriers limiting users reach or potential reach. Twitter has very few rules without any limitations on who you connect with or who you can tweet. Just this past week, I was contacted by OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, because they liked one of my tweets during #Lifeclass social lab.

For the purpose of Week One’s Twitter study, I wanted to use the live twitter chat as the format for engaging the social work community to gain organic feedback and insight on the use of the #socialworker hashtag by the Social Compass software company. For quantitative data, I asked questions then provide responses to participants to RT the response best in line with their perspective. As qualitative data, I asked participants to comment on each question like an open-ended question in order to gather responses. Then, there is the organic retweets and faves of commentary made during the chat. In the detailed study, I will be looking at other variables such as reach, influence, and potential reach.

Best Tweets of the Week


Challenges, Barriers, and Limitation

Within the confines of the study, participants who had not read the article on the subject matter had difficulty contributing as a spontaneous participant who happens to see tweets from the chat in their timeline. Additionally, participants who are not familiar with the construct of social media may base their assumptions and expectations on real-world ideology and not within the confines of the virtual space.

If social marketers want to hold live twitter chats using the hashtag #socialworker, does title protection laws legislate the virtual space? Also, is there a need for social workers to understand how marketing works in the virtual space in order to elevate awareness and market the profession? Essentially, Twitter is like the Wild West where people race to stake their claim on a piece of land. In the present case, hashtags are the real estate and the individual/entity with the most successful social media campaign viewed by users…Win.

School Lunches Taken Away at Utah Elementary School

Recently in Utah, a group of up to 40 students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City had their school lunches taken away. They were apparently taken away from elementary school students because of negative account balances or unpaid lunch bills. Not only were their school lunches taken, they reportedly were thrown in the trash. These students got into the lunch line and when they got to the end of the line, if their account showed up uncleared, their lunch was taken. Also, they received milk or some sort of fruit to eat to substitute as their meal.

Lukes’ daughter, fifth-grader Sophia Isom, told KSL-TV that a district employee took her lunch away and said, “Go get a milk.” Sophia recalled, “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account, so you can’t get lunch.’”

According to the Schools Facebook Post:

On Tuesday, the calls to parents continued. When lunch time came, students who still had negative balances were told they could not have a full meal but were given a piece of fruit and a milk for lunch. The district does this so children who don’t have money for lunch can at least have some food and not go without.

Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment. The children who didn’t have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk.

This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize.

The school claimed to have let the parents know about their account balances but there were some parents who stated they were never notified. How could this have happened? To embarrass a child this way and punish them for mistakes that should have been cleared up by the parents/school system is unacceptable. Then to take food away from hungry children just to throw it away is even more devastating. How did they know that was not that child’s first meal of the day? Parents should have made sure their child’s lunches were payed for but again, this situation should have been handled differently. It was unfortunate circumstances for those innocent children. Read update statement via Facebook


Stand Up and Speak Out: No Bullying Allowed

In recent news, a Florida teen was cleared of a felony charge of third-degree aggravated assault stalking  from bullying that led to the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in September. Rebecca Ann Sedwick had been ‘absolutely terrorized’ by the other girls before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death. The bullying apparently started over a ‘boyfriend issue’ at Crystal Lake Middle School.

Katelyn one of the girls accused stated, “No, I do not feel l did anything wrong.”Katelyn and a 14-year-old girl were charged last month after Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff Grady Judd saw a derogatory post on Facebook that he claims was written by one of them. The Facebook post said, “Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself but IDGAF [I don’t give a f—].”

Bullying is becoming a huge problem in today’s society.

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online
  • 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying.
  • 56 percent of students have personally witnessed some type of bullying at school.
  • Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.

What can we do?

No_BullyingTeaching kids and teens that bullying is not cool is one of the first steps we can make in educating our youth. As adults, we should model the behavior we want our children to exhibit as well as encouraging them to report if they see bullying happening. By encouraging them to speak up, it recognizes that not saying anything is just as bad as participating.

Bullies are often victims of abuse themselves or are lashing out because of  low self-esteem and other personal issues in order to make themselves feel better. Bullies can also be the”popular” kids or teens that are liked by many of their peers and teachers. No matter who it is it should not be tolerated. Joking with your friends is one thing, but teasing someone to the point where they’re afraid to attend school, ride the bus etc is unacceptable.

Teachers should also take bullying serious and intervene when possible. Managing their classrooms, investigating and knowing their students, recognizing relationships between their students, creating rules that allow victims to confide in and trust them are all major steps in confronting this epidemic.

As hard as it may be, I think encouraging victims to speak up for themselves and tell someone they trust about the bullying is necessary to begin addressing the root of the problem. One of the most important things a person should demonstrate is respect for themselves and others. Identifying ways to increase self-esteem is the first line of defense against bullying which results into lower self worth and inferiority.

Early years are an important time for parents, teachers and other forces in the child’s life to enlighten them on how to relate with their peers. If we start there, I think we can make a difference.

Recovery from Mental Illness: Interview With Cathryn Murray

When I think about recovery from mental illness three words come to mind: resilience, hope, and hostilities. Mental illnesses can seem like a life sentences, but through hard work and patience one can recover. Recently, I connected with Cathryn Murray who has been walking the path of recovery and learning how to their back control of their life.  In 2009, Cathryn was diagnosed with Bipolar, and she has been very open in sharing the challenges and barriers along the way. After hearing Cathryn’s story, I wanted to share it with you, and  I hope you find her story as inspiring as I did.

SWH: What were your first thoughts upon hearing the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how did you begin to internalize the fact that you have a mental illness?

cathrynCathryn: At first, I did not want to believe that I had a mental illness. I chose to pretend like I did not have a mental illness. In the beginning, I stopped taking my medications and this resulted in me losing everything that I owned. I was forced to live in a Board and Care for three years. During this time, I learned about my condition, participated in day treatment programs and graduated from SPIRIT, a program that helps consumers become peer support workers. I have learned that it is okay to have an illness. I have learned more about my condition and today I am on the right path, taking the right meds for me and dealing with my symptoms in a positive way. I think it was my case manager Ziba that really opened my eyes to the fact that I had an illness. One day she told me that I had a mental illness, and I needed to take medications. It was that day that I wanted to learn all about Bipolar I and learn to deal with this illness.

SWH: How did your upbringing impact your mental health?

Cathryn: I was diagnosed with Bipolar I in my late 30’s. I am 38 now. I have always had Bipolar I, but I was not diagnosed with it until now. I believe that I have always had a Mental Illness. I was often shy and an introvert while growing up.  My mother was a remarkable individual that taught me a lot about life and helped me to be responsible and caring.  I was raised properly and to be independent and self sufficient, but I always had a problem with my relationships with friends. For the first time in my life, I have friends and family to turn to that have helped me on this road to recovery.

SWH: How did those around you react to you having a mental illness?

Cathryn: I lost a few friends, but those individuals were never my true friends. I have learned to speak out about my illness and have developed new friendships with the many programs that I have been apart in. I have made a lot of friends on social media sites and my family has been both supportive and caring. I guess I am blessed that I really have not had any negative experiences.  I am learning to make new friends at school and work on establishing new friendships.

SWH: Explain the process you took to get help for your mental illness and how it changed your life?

Cathryn: After being hospitalized two times, I realized that I had a mental illness. I started researching about Bipolar and attending day treatment programs, which helped me tremendously to get on the right track again. I have also learned a lot about my illness from SPIRIT, a program that helps consumers become peer support workers in the mental health field. This program made me realize that I am so much more than my diagnosis. I participated in SPIRIT and graduated from the program in 2012. I later went on to enrolling at a local business college and plan to graduate from the program in 18 months. I think both being hospitalized and working with a case manager/therapist has helped me become stable and the person that I am today.

SWH: What does being in recovery mean to you?

Cathryn: Recovery means challenge, hard work, determination, and hard core tenacity. Recovery means no more excuses no further delay. This is for real this is not for play! So I grit my teeth and put my feet to the grind ready to battle to do whatever it takes. Whatever I have to endure I know its well worth the cost. Because of all the good things that I know recovery can also be. Recovery means restoration. Restoration of peace of mind, restoration of love for my family and myself. Ultimately, to me, recovery means everything, recovery means life.

SWH: How your perception of life changed from this experience?

Cathryn: I have learned to appreciate life a lot more since being diagnosed with a mental illness. Before my breakdown I was working for a good company and modeling. My life seemed pretty awesome, but then things started changing for the worse I lost everything. But in life you can’t take anything with you. I have grown so much from this experience and it has caused me to appreciate things more.  I am now moving on my own again. I am not scared anymore and I know that I can deal with my mental illness and continue to live a healthy life.

SWH: What piece of advice would you offer to someone who is suffering hopelessly with a mental illness?

Cathryn:Mental Illnesses are forever, but they are treatable. If you are on the wrong medications, change them. If you are seeing a doctor who is not helping you, get a different doctor. Keep reaching for sanity, because it is there. I promise you. I also believe in GOD. For me my belief in GOD and having faith has helped me to become stronger and stable again.

Cathryn Murray is a full time student at Heald Business College in Concord, CA, majoring in Entrepreneurship Business. She is passionate about writing, Mental Health issues and photography.  You can visit her online at her blog, Twitter, or on Facebook.

5 Technologies That Can Help Special Needs Children

You love your children, and want to see them grow and learn. However, when your child has special needs or learning disabilities, it can seem like a constant struggle against the very forces of nature. School programs have made great strides in the last few years towards creating an educational program designed to benefit special needs children, but there is still a long way to go. Thankfully, where other programs or efforts may have failed, technology has succeeded. By using the almost limitless power of modern innovation, you can help your special little person develop independence and reach his or her goals. Here are five technologies that can help special needs children advance.

1. Special keyboards

Sometimes the only thing standing between confusion and understanding is a specially designed keyboard. Computer keyboards and programs designed to help children with physical disabilities, as well as visual and learning disabilities, can improve a child’s ability to communicate, as well as help improve spelling and reading skills. The Teacher’s Institute for Special Education offers specially designed keyboards for a variety of abilities and even takes custom orders.

2. Apps and software

Special applications and school software that makes learning more interesting and accessible are available for all school subjects. Reading, spelling, math, problem solving, and other important skills can be taught using special programs tailored to the specific needs of your child. Video programs that improve attention spans are also available.

ipad3. Mobile smart devices

There’s something about iPads and smartphones that can really capture a child’s attention. In addition to providing access to any number of special apps and programs, smart devices seem perfectly designed for use by special needs children. Those who have difficulty holding books and turning pages can easily swipe a finger across the screen. Best of all, the technology’s capabilities, and the available programs for use with it, are growing every day.

4. Speaking devices

For many special needs children, communication is a big issue. Some children struggle with the confidence to speak out loud, while others want to communicate but are unable to form the right words or sounds. Still others have visual or learning disabilities that prevent them from reading words on a page. Recent advances in speech technology have made it possible for these children to improve their abilities. Those with speech impediments can listen to properly spoken words and better learn to imitate the sounds. Those who have trouble reading can hear the words on the page and make important connections between text and sound.

5. Social media

When it comes to the social aspect of school, many special needs children feel completely left out. This can break your heart as a parent when you see your son or daughter become sad because they can’t enjoy the same relationships as other children. One way to use technology to help make things better is through social media. By connecting with parents of other special needs children, you can set up playdates and plan fun activities for everyone involved. One mom used Facebook to find a prom date for her autistic daughter. Social media can be used in other ways as well, by providing your child with a circle of friends from around the world. It can even help improve language, writing, and other communication skills.

Raising a special needs child can be difficult, but when you see the look of pride light up your child’s face as he or she grasps a new concept for the first time or completes a puzzle that had been difficult, you’ll know that it’s worth it. With technology, you can help your child become something more than they are.

Photo Credit: Steven Moshuris, an autistic student at Belle View Elementary, uses an… (Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)

“I’m not a bum, I’m a human being”

A couple of weeks ago, a video of Ronald Davis went viral on social media of him giving his personal accounts about homelessness, and I instantly felt saddened after watching it. At my internship, I talk to women and men whom have stumbled upon hard times. They have children, have lost jobs,  have no place to go, live in cars or shelters, haven’t washed in days, have no means of transportation and have to constantly ask for rides or catch the bus. Some of them work, but they are still unable to support themselves because of individual tragic circumstances or have acquired such an immense amount of debt they cannot recover. Homeless people are not bums. They are human beings who need help.

These past few weeks at my internship have truly humbled me. Also, I have become more aware and thankful for the smallest things. Some days, I complain and what for? I have food, clothing, a roof over my head, a car to drive, and most importantly, a family that love and support me. Whenever I come to work  and deal with homeless families in need, it serves as a huge reality check. I thank God everyday because Ronald Davis’s situation could have been mine or a loved one. Homelessness can happen to anyone without the proper preparation, especially with today’s economy.

According to Bloomberg news,

The number of homeless people who are part of a family climbed 1.4 percent in January 2012 from the prior year, even as total homeless numbers declined, based on a National Alliance to End Homelessness analysis of the most recent nationwide statistics available. The number of children without a home increased by an estimated 2 percent, according to NAEH, a Washington-based non-profit focused on policy and research on the needs of homeless people.

More recent local data from places such as Seattle and Portland, Oregon, suggest that in some markets where rent is rising, homelessness has followed suit. What’s more, federal budget cuts to government housing programs threaten to trim aid.

Nationally, the average hourly wage among renters is $14.32 this year compared with the $18.79 needed to afford an apartment at a fair-market rent, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, without spending more than 30 percent of income on housing, a National Low Income Housing Coalition report found in March. The $4.47 gap this year is wider than the $4.10 differential in 2012.  Read Full Article

View the video of Ronald Davis below:


When I am riding in my car and I see a homeless person, my heart goes out to them. I don’t care what their situation may be. Some may say that many of the homeless people standing outside asking for change or money are not homeless or lacking. Others may think they are just lazy, on drugs or using people to get by. All of those things could be true, however, who are we as people to judge? It is easy for people to point fingers and say, “Get up and get a job”, but it’s not that simple.  Like Ronald Davis stated in the video, people take one look at him and immediately dismiss him as a potential employee because of his situation and appearance.

Whenever I extend my hand to a homeless person, I give because for me its the right thing to do. I will continue to give when I can, and I challenge you to do the same.

6 Ways to Avoid Facebook Misery

Ever feel jealous, angry, or sad after looking at someone’s Facebook updates? Ever posted something that you regretted later? Ever cringe when you see a friend post something way too personal for the whole world wide web to see?

I think we have all had some level of Facebook drama at one time or another, but social networking sites can actually cause significant mental health symptoms for some people. Check out this study that showed the more time a person spent on Facebook, the less happy and less satisfied they tended to be.

facebook dramaHere are some tips to help you avoid becoming miserable while using social media:

1. Monitor your overall use. Sounds simple, but you may be surprised by how much time you actually spend online. Over 3/4 of Facebook users login every day to check their account. Most spend at least 45 minutes a day.

2. Consider disabling Facebook on your smart phone. If your phone allows a Facebook app that sends you alerts, you are more likely to get sucked into Facebook activity, even if you aren’t sitting down at your computer.

3. Get your needs met in healthier ways. If you find yourself posting updates in order to get sympathy from others, you run the risk of being disappointed by a lack of a response or pushing others away. No one likes to constantly see pessimistic rants from their friends. Misery loves company, but it can also be emotionally draining to be around negative people.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Easier said than done, right? One of the main reasons people get down while spending time on Facebook is that it can be a constant arena for social competition. Cute babies, advanced degrees, new cars, fitness goals achieved and vacations are all happy occasions that people love to share. If we are prone to jealousy or self-doubt, it is easy to feel less-than by comparing how we stack up against others. A key sign that you are getting too much Facebook time is when you stop sharing in others’ joys and start feeling resentful or jealous.

5. Think before you post. Try to avoid posting when your emotional brain is active and your logical brain has taken the day off. If you anticipate an evening of drinking or drug use, disable your access to Facebook. Worst case scenario: you can always delete an unflattering post, but sometimes even a short-lived post can be damaging. Nowadays, many employers search Facebook to find information about job applicants or current employees.

6. Be careful who you befriend. My own policy is that I don’t accept friend requests from people I’ve never met in person and I never accept friend requests from current or former clients. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid those who hold positions of power over you, like your boss or supervisors. Facebook also allows you to block certain people from your posts.

Facebook can be a great way to connect with friends we otherwise don’t see because life just gets in the way sometimes. Just make sure it serves a positive purpose in your life and doesn’t cause you distress. If you find yourself getting irritable or bummed out due to Facebook, take a time out and connect with the real-world for a moment. Social media and networking sites can be great, but there simply is no substitute for sunshine, nature, physical exercise, and face to face connection.

What is Thunderclap and How can It Help Grassroots Organizing?

by Madeline Anderson, SCSJ Communications Intern

Thunderclap logoThunderclap is a free crowd-speaking platform that allows a message to be seen by a multitude of people on a variety of different social media sites at the same time. The purpose is to help maximize the chance of your message going viral by coordinating a multi-media strike alongside your loyal supporters. Thunderclap sends a message to each supporter’s preferred social media outlet such as Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr which automatically posts your message on their page at the same time. This technique could possibly expand your message and reach to thousands and even hundreds of thousands people at the same time creating a viral message.

So, how exactly does it work? In order to “thunderclap” a message, select a mission/message that you wish to broadcast widely over social media. Create a catchy tag line, add an image that illustrates your goal, and insert this information into the Thunderclap website. To avoid spammers, the message will go through an online approval process. For a message to go into effective “thunderclap state,” you must get a certain number of supporters to participate by a certain date which is set by you, the organizer. The default setting is 100 supporters within a week.  However, you may adjust the time and the number of supporters to best fit your needs.  The more supporters you have the greater the social media reach of your message.

When you create your Thunderclap, you share it via any social media sites which can include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Personal webpage, Tumblr or by e-mail in order to get your supporters to participate. When you have the amount of support you need, the Thunderclap message will be sent out on the date and time you specified. For example, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice set up a Thunderclap to remind North Carolinians to register to vote by the October 11, 2013 deadline, and we are seeking 100 supporters. When we reach this number, Thunderclap will arrange for our reminder message to be posted to the social media pages of each supporter at the same time on the same day. This will increase our chances of creating awareness on this important matter.

What about the supporters? What are they signing up for and what are their options? Supporters are allowing Thunderclap to share this one message on their behalf.  It will post on their feed ONCE at the time/date they agree to, and it will not be sent out as spam (i.e. a message sent to all their friends). Facebook and Twitter only store the information through a secure connection to spread this message so there is no personal information shared (i.e. passwords). Supporters are also able to opt out of the project at any time if they change their minds.

Thunderclap and grassroots campaigning In terms of increasing the scope of your grassroots message, this tool is phenomenal. IF you were to get 250 supporters for your Thunderclap message, the total social media reach could be well into the millions. The goal is to hone a strong, simple message and make it viral. Given the amount of media shared every day, trying to get a message noticed can seem daunting. With a Thunderclap coordinating a multitude of voices discussing your message at the same time, your message will be mass pushed to the forefront of all of your supporters’ feeds. Want to give it a try? Check out SCSJ’s Thunderclap – and please support it!

Watch the Thunderclap how-to video:

How Technology and Social Media Assists People with Disabilities

children with disabilities using ipads

There is no denying the impact technology and social media has on our ability to connect with others.  It gives us the ability to connect with like-minded people who are passionate about the social and political issues that are dear to us.  Whether these like-minded people are in our neighborhoods or on the other side of the globe, social media is removing the geographical boundaries preventing connection.  Most importantly, it has enabled people with disabilities the ability to effectively advocate and/or protest against policies and programs that affect their quality of life.

People with disabilities of all ages are seen using Twitter, Facebook, blogging platforms, businesses websites, and Kickstarter campaigns to share their life experiences.  Additionally, it is providing a platform for people with disabilities to voice the changes they want to see in expanding inclusion, education, employment, and advocacy opportunities.

The advancements in technology, for example iPads and other tablets, have broken down barriers to allow people of various limitation levels to display their presence on social media and in society.  The invention of these devices has opened doors when it comes to communication, therapeutic progress, and educational enhancement for students and adults with disabilities.

The creation of mobile apps on tablets and smartphones has provided a way for those who cannot use their voice to utilize  touch-and-speech technology at greater access and more affordable prices.  Traditionally, touch-and-speech technology would cost close to $8,000.  Whereas now, the purchase of an iPad at about $499 in price, making this technology affordable and accessible through downloadable apps.  Individuals who are hard of hearing can also download applications that can increase the volume for easier listening.

Physical therapists and teachers have found inventive ways to incorporate the use of technology and applications into their interactions with those with physical, cognitive, and learning disabilities.  Such applications have increased individuals’ ability to improve fine motor skills by touching the screens versus having to move a mouse to direct the action they want to take.  Along with providing supplemental instruction methods in the classrooms, this technology seems to resonate well for students with autism who seem to grasp the use of tablets with ease.

With the advances in the tools we use to communicate, social media helps to bridge the gap between those with disabilities and those who are able-bodied, as well as allow people with disabilities to connect with others who share their health and medical conditions.  There are countless personal and organizational websites in chatrooms and other platforms for almost every medical condition that exists.

Speaking from a personal standpoint, I am a member of several Facebook groups for individuals with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), and I also follow numerous blogs on Tumblr and Twitter profiles for organizations and individuals with OI and other physical disabilities.  Social media is being used as a means to connect people with disabilities who may have shared similar life experiences.  This connection creates a sense of community with those who know first-hand the struggles and challenges of living with a life-altering and at times life-threatening, medical and/or psychological condition.

Social media also allows people with disabilities a platform to educate the public about what it means to be disabled while allowing people with disabilities to become self-advocates without having to leave their own homes.  Advocacy and self-advocacy are key components for people with disabilities in order to promote empowerment within the population.  Additionally, it allows for discussion and advocacy for the implementation of effective and efficient programs and policies in order to improve the well-being, social, educational, and economic needs of the group.

For example, social media allows those who utilize it to raise the public’s social consciousness about policies that can either greatly benefit or hinder people with disabilities when it comes to employment opportunities.  It can also create a wider awareness of politicians who seek to strip people with disabilities of their basic human rights by supporting discriminatory practices and legislation.

If the message broadcast through social media receives enough support through individuals resharing, retweeting, and the like, then the potential for that message to go viral on the web increases the ability for gaining the attention of mainstream media outlets.  The power of social media cannot be underestimated, and people with disabilities should consider using social media as a tool to gain allies in the fight for a more equal playing field in our society.

For the people with disabilities who follow Social Work Helper, how do you use technology in your everyday lives?  Has social media proven to be an effective tool to promote advocacy efforts, both personally and professionally?  If so, in what ways has social media proven to be beneficial?  What barriers are there when using social media?  How can advocates and helping professionals promote the importance of using social media to people with disabilities?

I am very interested in hearing the responses of those with disabilities, disability rights consultants, self-advocates like myself, helping professionals, parents, caregivers, or anyone who has witnessed the power of social media has in impacting the lives of people with disabilities.

Five Things You Should Never Share on Social Media


People turn to social media mainly to stay connected to people despite their busy schedules or, in some cases, their complete lack of interest in actually maintaining a real, tangible friendship with people they’re only forced to interact with. Social media accounts also allow us to express ourselves through shoutouts and photo posts.

While this is a useful feature for releasing stress and reaching an audience, it is also very dangerous when done with very little thought put into it beforehand. We tend to forget that the Internet is not just a harsh mistress, but also the home of millions of nasty cyber-trolls who is capable of doing things with your private information that you probably never imagined were possible.

Thus, it helps to keep a few things in mind when posting on social media. To be more specific, it helps to make a list of things you SHOULDN’T post online. Here are five such things.

Complaints about your job (or any other kind of company information, for that matter)

Run a Google search for “fired because of Facebook” and you’d get a ridiculous number of news articles, lists, and even screencaps. The use of social media during work hours is highly discouraged and even outright prohibited by many companies, and with good reason – how can you possibly be productive if you’re spending time waiting for people to Like your status post about how your mind-blowing discovery that “STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS”?  What about posting about work when you’re not at work, you ask?

Well, it’s still a bad idea. Considering that some of your contacts might be (or most likely are) from work, it might not exactly be a good move to post about how much you hate what you do for a living. After all, if you were the boss of the company you work for, you probably wouldn’t be too eager to keep a whiny employee on the payroll, not only because whiny people are generally irritating, but also because said employee’s complaints might be damaging to your reputation.

As for fast food employees who goof around and contaminate food, well…I highly recommend that they continue to post pictures of their “daring exploits”, if only to ensure that they get swiftly taken as far away from food as possible. Or they could, you know, stop doing disgusting things to the food they handle.

Vacation plans

It’s one thing to post about your vacation plans out of excitement, and it’s another thing entirely to do that just to brag about it and spite other people who can’t go on a vacation like you. As it turns out, both instances are a big no-no. According to cops in Philadelphia, posting about your planned vacation only opens you to being targeted by crooks who’d absolutely love to capitalize on the fact that you’d be leaving your home unguarded (and your valuables ripe for the picking).

Your address, business phone number, and current whereabouts

This should be about as much of a no-brainer as “don’t post your password for all to see,” yet a lot of people still do it anyway. Sharing private information on your social media accounts only opens you to a world of potential harassment and stalking. The popular app Foursquare announces your current location to your friends list and, while this might be a cute and seemingly harmless feature, it also inevitably allows other people to follow you around – even the ones you don’t want to hang out with. Addresses and business phone numbers are no exception, too; it has been proven that, even with relatively tight profile security, your contact information can still be fished from right under your nose.

“Scientific claims” and “facts” that a little research can easily debunk

It has been said time and again that “truth is stranger than fiction,” and every once in a while you’d come across something either so urgent or so unbelievably insane that you end up thinking it (1) just HAS to be true and (2) absolutely NEEDS to reach as many people as possible. Before sharing ANY secondhand information that presents itself as fact, it would be best to visit websites such as Not only would it stop you from contributing to an already messy chain of lie-sharing, it would also make you feel smarter (and subsequently better about yourself). Pretty nice side effect, isn’t it?

Your dirty laundry

Passive-aggressive status messages are a common sight in social networks. They usually mean one of two things: either the original poster is so angry that all of the bottled-up and barely-contained rage just kind of exploded and resulted in a mushroom cloud of vague insults aimed at no one in particular, or that the original poster is fishing for an argument from his target/sympathy from his contacts. Aside from the obvious danger of your post accidentally agitating or angering the wrong contact, you’d also be painting a gigantic target on yourself, essentially letting all of the people in your social circle see what’s pissing you off at the moment (and judge you for it). Keep in mind that your social media persona is basically a reflection of who you are, and people will base their perception of you on what they see on your profile page. Whenever you get the urge to post your latest whinefest about life, just repeat this line to yourself to make you come to your senses: “Facebook is not a clothesline for you to hang your dirty laundry on.”

Tracking Hate Speech on Twitter

by Vilissa Thompson

It finally happened:  someone has taken the time to track the usage of hate speech (which includes slurs and derogatory terms) on Twitter.  In The State, Columbia, South Carolina’s newspaper, published an article about the prevalence of hateful tweets on the internet, and how a good percentage of the tweets tracked were from those who lived east of the Mississippi River.  This article intrigued me, especially since I live in a Southeastern state that has a history of ardent viewpoints and mistreatment concerning the groups of people targeted in the hateful messages analyzed in the study.

Here is how the tweets were tracked:  Monica Stephens, an assistant professor of geography at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California and three geography students, used data from the DOLLY Project, which had archives of tweets with the locations indicated.  The tweets used in this research analysis were from June 2012 to April 2013.  Stephens and her students analyzed the tweets from this specific timeframes and constructed a visual map highlighting the geotagged tweets to display where hateful tweets were most prevalent.  (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “geotag,” it is when you allow the geographic location of where you are tweeting to be posted on your tweets.)

The hate maps allows you to select derogatory term identifiers to see where in the country those words were tweeted the most.  From reviewing the maps, one does notice that a good percentage of the hateful tweets tracked were prominently from one side of the country.  However, we must not stereotype Easterners as being bigots/hateful, nor can we safely concluded that those who occupy other parts of the country do not harbor prejudices about race, sexual orientation, or those with disabilities.

The research findings about how some individuals are choosing to use the internet is disturbing, especially when hateful messages and propaganda are being shared to millions of users through mediums like Twitter.  Hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but that protection does not condone its usage, whether it is spoken or in written form.  Websites like Twitter can enforce policies that discourage the use of such language (i.e., Facebook allows you to report offensive posts/statuses), however, such policies can only go so far.

This brings me to my point:  what can we do to decrease the kind of hateful speech that seems to breed online?  We are all aware of the harmful, and sadly, deadly, effects of cyberbullying on our children in this country, but how come there is not a strong movement in place to “clean up” the hate language on the web?  Negative words, whether it is about someone’s race, sexual orientation, disability, or appearance, do hurt, and can greatly affect a person’s self-esteem and self-worth.  What will it take for us to be more serious about the damage that is being done, whether the target is an adolescent or an adult?

When I come across offensive posts, I do report  it.  Why?  Because I know how destructive such words and language can have on the psyche and well-being of individuals, from a professional standpoint.  Also, I, myself, have been the target of hate speech via the internet in the past, and it  is not an experience I would want anyone to endure.  That kind of language is not empowering or uplifting; it is dehumanizing, hurtful, and isolating.  The “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” rhyme that we learned in elementary school may tell us that words lack power, but for anyone who have been called a name due to who and what they are, they know differently; words have tremendous power.

Tell me, what are you prepared to do when you observe hate-filled messages on sites like Twitter?  Do you report it, or keep scrolling?  If you choose the latter, then are you indirectly “approving” the message being shared to millions online through your inaction?  

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

Maya Angelou

Slut Shamed Teens: The Amanda Todd Story

by Sarah Devine

I have encountered several stories recently about slut-shamed teens who have taken their own lives, including Amanda Todd, who was harassed through Facebook and other social media after exposing her breasts to a much older man. Obviously, these stories highlight the continued need to address bullying and harassment–and to take it seriously, not dismissing it as a “phase” youth go through–and to teach young people how to protect themselves online (Amanda Todd’s harrasser found much of her personal information online, including where she lived and what school she attended).

Despite the internet’s centrality to many young people’s lives, some youth remain unaware of the dangers of posting personal information and photos to social networking sites–or even sending them to friends. Images and words can “live” on the internet forever, facilitating long-term bullying and harassment that the victim is powerless to escape.

Of course, there are larger concerns also, including how a 30-year-old man who could bully a 7th-grader and distribute a topless photo of her without punishment, or how she could suffer such extreme bullying at school without the intervention of parents, teachers or staff. And, perhaps largest of all, how patriarchy continues to enable slut-shaming in our society.

None of these concerns are going to disappear anytime soon, but as someone who works with teenage girls they are always present in some form or another. Many of the girls I work with can describe slut-shaming to a T, but they wouldn’t call it that. To them, it’s how life is; a girl expresses her sexuality somehow (or simply has rumors spread about her to that effect) and her peers come down hard on her with oppressive, shameful comments. I think that the first step is to help youth recognize how inappropriate and misogynistic these actions are. So may girls are growing up without a feminist vocabulary to help them make sense of the sexist and oppressive dynamics they are inevitably being exposed to at school and in the media. Here is a video of Amanda Todd made days before her suicide.


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Top 5 Tools to Help Protect Against Cyber Bullying

I will be sharing with you a few useful tools and recommendations to help protect yourself and/or your children from cyber bullying both online and offline. Although social media and the internet has revolutionized the way our society communicates, it also presents many dangers that both children and adults must navigate in order to protect themselves from harm.

Those who wreak havoc on others primarily rely on either one of two factors in which to inflict damage on their intended target:  1) anonymity or 2) position or status that by virtue give them credibility over their victim. Their predatory actions depend on the silence of their victim, the inability of their victim to prove the harm being inflicted upon them, and/or the powerless feelings by the victim to stop future behavior.

One of the best examples of this psychology is in the movie “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” where a state’s guardian/worker uses his authority to impose his will on the main character, Lisbeth. Click here to View Trailer.  This post in no way serves as legal advice, but hopefully it may help you to access your situation from a strategic point of view.

What victims and potential victims should realize is that your tormentor’s psychology is obsessed with maintaining their public persona in order to conceal their private activities. Your silence is their best weapon, but I must caution you that any attempts to expose their evil side without a strategic approach will catapult them into defensive mode. Your tormentor will intensify his or her efforts in order to further undermine your credibility.

By recognizing your tormentor’s psychology, you can turn your silence into your best strategic advantage. Without them being in defensive mode, your tormentor conducts business as usual which is being the devil to you, but a saint in front of everyone else.

Why not use this period of time to document their behavior? Other than in person harassment, the most commonly used means to harass or threaten is either via computer or via phone. Here are few tools and recommendations to help support your accounting of events, but keep in mind these tools are double edged sword. Don’t send anything that you don’t want archived or saved.

  1. Screenshot– Provides  users the ability to capture a time stamped photo of whatever appears on their computer screen as well as available on android and apple phones. For more information view “Screen Capture Tools: 40+ Free Tools and Techniques”
  2. Find IP Address in Emails– Some may think creating an another email account will maintain anonymity by protecting their identity.  However, this is not the case. Email accounts provide the IP address for the computer being used to access the email account. For more information view “How to Find the Location in the Header of Gmail”, this article also gives information on other email account types.
  3. Youmail  and Google Voice-Are harassing phone calls a problem? Do you feel the need to log your incoming, outgoing calls, and text messaging….then you need to add these two apps to your phone ASAP. Youmail is unique because it can track and catalog hangups, incoming calls, and voicemails to your phone. In addition, you can call block and ditch calls with a no longer in service message. Additionally, it will act as a caller id even when someone tries to block their number and when your phone is off. Google Voice gives you the ability to add a second line to your phone with a new number without having to give out your carrier cell phone number. Also, it provides a recording option for your phone calls. Caution In the same way you may use these tools to protect yourself, don’t engage in behavior that will allow these same tools to be used against you. Often times with bullying, their tactic is to strike, but catch you in the act of retaliating.
  4. Reporting Harassment and Threats- For Information on reporting to Twitter view “How to document harassment and cyberstalking on Twitter”, for Information on reporting to Facebook view “Track Your Facebook Abuse, Bullying and Spam Reports”, and for information on general reporting view “Cyber bullying, School Bullying, and Bullycide”
  5. Social Media Monitoring-Some parents maybe ambivalent on whether to monitor or not monitor their kids behavior. This resource provides several resources to parents of children being bullied and parent’s of the bullying child. Most importantly, it provides a comprehensive tool to monitor all of your child’s social media and cell phone usage in order to provide a comprehensive picture of your child’s activity both incoming and outgoing.

NYPD Officer Caught on Camera Performing a Random Act of Kindness

by Deona Hooper, MSW

New York City Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo was caught on camera by an Arizona tourist performing a random act of kindness for a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk with no shoes or socks. According to news reports, the officer went into Sketchers to purchase socks and a pair of all weather waterproof boots for the man who turned out to be a homeless veteran.

The tourist saw him purchasing the boots and followed the officer outside in order to use her mobile phone to capture the above picture. She then posted the picture on the NYPD Facebook page which has gone viral with over 3 million hits. The officer did not know the picture had been taken until it was posted to the NYPD’s Facebook page.  View the news reporting video by Newsy.

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