Thursday, December 15, 2011

Facebook and Google attempt to throw out a lifeline

By Jen Schiller

In 2011 bullying and social media took center stage yet again, often converging, for good and bad. The rise of social media allows cyber-bullying to hide its ugly face, but it also facilitates campaigns dedicated at ending all different types of bullying, many of which have gained celebrity notoriety.

Facebook and Google have introduced different methods to try and not only end cyber-bullying but to offer those who may be suffering the necessary tools to seek help.

While both companies have been engaging in anti-bullying policies for a number of years, they recently teamed up with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to offer new services and information for at-risk users. Facebook will now offer the option of reporting concerning statuses and posts to crisis counselors. Google meanwhile will provide the contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at the top of the page when certain red-flagged phrases are keyed in to the engine.

Facebook’s use of the buddy system raises many questions and does not have unanimous support from the online community, but if nothing else the social media giant is taking a stance. It’s a slippery slope, but so is everything on the internet.

Social media is an all-encompassing beast we now know is capable of effecting change. Earlier this year it was Facebook that was credited for the revolt in Egypt, and Twitter campaigns have been crucial in ideas such as the Occupy protests. As social media platforms continue to surge it is inevitable that they creep closer and closer into our daily lives, blurring the pre-existing realms of public and private information.

But it’s also important to note we’ve let them. No one forced a Facebook or Twitter account on us when they first started; we sought out the type of global contact they generate, allowing them to gain such a precipitous position in our daily lives.

So while it may be startling for some to see the intrusion of Facebook in the very personal matters of suicide, it is not surprising. Google and Facebook are not calling the police themselves; they are simply providing increased information to those in need and those who are concerned.

It remains to be seen what effect, if any, these new partnerships will have, but this is the first campaign for Facebook which does not just try to stop bullying but to help those in need.

It’s an important issue and whether I agree with the new policies or not, I am glad to see the social media powers attempting to help rather than just covering themselves from potential lawsuits. It may prove disastrous, it may prove ineffective, it may save lives but at least it’s something and often times a little bit goes a long way for people in need, especially this time of year.

Jen Schiller is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR.  Contact her at

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