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Social media: a force for good

Social media has had a bad press recently. Facebook is awash with fake news, trolls stalk Twitter and Instagram is full of skinny young women eating “clean” food, living impossible lives.

But despite its faults, I love it. Thanks to its power I have just met up with a friend who I last saw 16 years ago when she left the Edinburgh Evening News features desk to travel Europe in a van (sound familiar?).

Lorna and her husband ended up in Gibraltar, where they now live, and we spent last Sunday with her, making faces at monkeys, drinking far too much wine and generally having a great time.

Nigel met up with a friend he last saw in Belfast, 25 years ago, where they plied their trade as young economists.

Douglas now lives in Madrid, via Cuba, and he was the perfect guide for this magical city, not least because of his expertise on bodegas, bars and Spanish politics.

And through Facebook, I have just been offered – and gratefully accepted –  a guided tour of Luxembourg city by another former colleague who in now based there.

I have used social media to keep in touch with friends and family back in the UK, and to follow the progress of Brexit, #indyref2 and the downfall of Trump.

I have ❤️ my brother and his wife’s recent trip to Rome on Instagram and arranged an impromptu trip by our son and his three-year old daughter to spend Easter with us in the South of France ❤️

And I have kept in touch with the family of my close friend Homba in Malawi, who last weekend, at the age of 89, suffered a stroke.

Miraculously, and it is a miracle, because I used Google to research “strokes at 90”, she has just been discharged from hospital.

Her speech has come back, her paralysis is fading fast and her mind is as sharp as ever, which is pretty sharp.

And thanks to the Moneygram app I can almost instantly help pay for the physiotherapy that she needs to make a full recovery.

Oh, and I am a member of a WhatsApp group that is organising her 90th birthday celebration on 4th July.

But perhaps the best example of the power of social media are the new toilets at Mapalo Primary School in Malawi.

Two weeks ago, another friend of mine, Councillor Issa Imeda Jafali, posted a plea on Facebook for help to rebuild the toilets of the primary school in his ward.

Issa and I put together a social media campaign which raised £1,600 in ten days, and work on the new toilet blocks has already started.

The teachers were rather perplexed as to how Issa, using only his cheap smartphone, could raise money for their school from strangers living thousands of miles away, but that is the real power of social media.

We are driving round Europe in a van. Issa works in a community 20 kilometres from Zomba in Malawi, where the main mode of transport is a bicycle taxi.

Homba lives in a house which has no running water, and I didn’t know Douglas existed until a few months ago.

Yet thanks to social media, our lives are connected. We can take care of each other. We can share good, and bad times. Our world has no borders.

Now isn’t that a good thing?

 

 

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