How Social media can save the planet

A manifesto for using the internet to make a  difference.

Social media can start to shape and steer the physical environment. Let’s stop investing in parallel digital and analogue worlds, if you’ve broadband at home what are you doing at work? – except to meet face to face.

I think it’s not just social media businesses that can be transformed as Mark Zuckerberg seems to imply , but just about ALL activities.

Let’s share, don’t use  – experience with others!, use austerity as the opportunity for a massive switch from dual analogue and digital options to choose digital only.

For UK readers.. forget the TV license.. have you heard of YouTube?, and many other examples, save on newspapers..

But perhaps too we need to think of having Social utility partners. Someone in the group who drives, lives round the corner, can share trips to the local supermarket – can allow groups and individuals to reduce what they use and need, by finding someone to share it with. It’s the rise of the community again – but in a new guise… not the dreaded lace curtain twitching of the local communities of old, but where each member has the capacity to choose and select who they do stuff with and to transform from soulless commercial company experiences to shared social networks.

A social utility person could be the named driver, it could be others sharing individual tasks – trips to work, shops, school. It could include stuff – who you go to for other sharing needs .. and of course a friend!

Social networks can also change the way we use health services. We can be proactive about which health care approaches we want to take, we can find our own solutions, we can network with others who’ve found the same solutions.  There are some amazing science based self help approaches to Asthma and it’s management that allow those who are interested to reduce their use of Asthma medication by +90%.

Saving time, medication and feeling healthier. But the thing that strikes me about these approaches is that it’s extending what Social TV folks call the lean forward approach.The difference between how we used to watch TV and how we now instead use the internet.

In traditional Asthma medication you lean back and take the medication. You have the (if you’re lucky!) near perfect medication and if you take it when told, and often everyday – you’ll be fine so long as you’re happy to sit back and think of your health. But there are these other models developing, where if you want something better and you want to be part of the solution, not something solved by a medical silver bullet then you can transform your experience. There’s another lovely example from the world of barefoot running. Read this book Born to Run and you’ll discover that the extent to which companies sell to our needy sit back selves, when something less might make us a little stronger and healthier. From the Asthma example I’d call it companies self interest in Crutchifying consumers! Forget teaching people to fish! IE give up a belief in being healthy without help, and take this every day, and manage the risks and go forward into the dark night..(in the case of Aspirin it might be still be a good idea). It’s what financially successful companies do – turn an occasional purchase into a direct debit – as Sam Chisholm of BSkyB said “Give me a ******* name on a direct debit and they’re mine for life”.

Social networks are a way to change the balance of this relationship. There are risks, we still need Doctors, we still need cars – but maybe we only need 20% of them that we actually needed before… and the rest is all online .. now working together on this could really save the planet.

It’s extremely exciting .. it’s a vision that works for me…do it different, do it the digital way, and accept no compromises

We need to keep the science talking so that we can be clear about which choice is better than the other, we want to be able to compare – Buying a car, or not buying a car using zipcar or using whipcar but let’s get a competition going for goodness, what rewards can we make available for nonsumption? Look out  goCarshare through facebook.

They have to be pretty big to equal the torrent of adwords and revenue behind consumption. But just think what reducing consumption might mean: a whole new nuclear plant doesn’t need to be developed at all ( or restarted!)


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