by Kim Niemi
As another year draws to a close, it’s time to take a look at the ways that social media drew us closer together and made the world a little smaller in 2014. Amidst the typical viral vids and silly memes were serious conversations about racism and rape culture in America, forcing us to look deeper at ourselves and recognize the power of social media to effect change. While this list is hardly comprehensive, it’s a good snapshot of what went down this year on the various social networks. Will our standout picks match yours? Time to find out.
Snapchat rang in 2014 with a major hack that leaked 4.6 million user names and phone numbers ( it was just the beginning of a year rife with hacks and leaks).
During the Grammy’s a well-played tweet by Arby’s made us look at the fast-food chain with new eyes.
By the end of the month marketing for the impending Superbowl was distracting us with online commercial sneak peeks of cute puppies and a Full House reunion.
#SochiProblems kept us in the loop on the myriad issues plaguing the Winter Olympics in the Russian town, and allowed us to connect globally over homophobia and the treatment of stray dogs, as Russia’s unsettling views on both issues brought them to the forefront. Oh yeah – we also won 9 gold medals.
Pinterest announced unlimited secret boards, but not in time to give cranky singles a distraction to avoid being inundated with #SheSaidYes posts over Valentine’s Day, and LinkedIn opened their former “Influencers-only” publishing platform to all users.
Jimmy Fallon took over the Tonight Show, adding a social element and making getting topics like #MomTexts to trend his new hobby.
Twitter turned eight, SXSW and March Madness happened, and Ellen’s Oscar selfie exploded the Internet, setting a retweet record. We all wished we were there.
Also at the Oscars, John Travolta mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name and Slate almost immediately came up with the Travoltify name generator so we could all share in the fun.
This daddy/daughter duo made us say “Adorbs!” simply because they weren’t singing “Let it Go.”
And Linda, honey? Mateo wants cupcakes.
U.S. Airways reminded us that social sabotage is always a click away when they accidentally shared content that had supposedly been flagged. The NYPD also launched a Twitter campaign that backfired – asked to share photos with NYPD members using #myNYPD, Twitter then exploded with images of police brutality, all appropriately categorized.
Unfortunately, neither incident was an April Fools joke.
Further abroad, 273 girls were kidnapped from a school in Nigeria by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Average citizens, celebrities, and the First Lady pleaded for someone to #BringBackOurGirls. To date there are still approximately 230 missing.
Hooters continued the social sabotage trend with their own inappropriate post on Facebook.
After a deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara, #YesAllWomen became the battle cry of women fed up with male entitlement, and a general sense of not being safe, being harassed, and/or being sexually assaulted more than most men realize.
Richard Dunn showed us how he handled being “all by himself” in an airport and went appropriately viral, prompting a response from Celine Dion herself.
We all came down with World Cup Fever.
Instagram released Bolt, but only in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. The U.S. is still waiting for our turn to play. What gives, Instagram?
The Huffington Post passed the 1 million tweet mark.
New social platform Ello launched (though no one would care much until next month).
The #IceBucketChallenge took over our newsfeeds, as everyone from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey participated. Critics panned it as slacktivism, but were soon forced to eat crow as ALSA donations soared to $106 million in a little over a month.
Robin Williams stunned the world by taking his own life. As tributes to the much-loved actor filled our newsfeeds, we looked with fresh eyes at the issues of depression and suicide realizing perhaps we didn’t understand anything about them at all.
Questions surrounding the shooting of a young black man by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri spawned protests, but everything spun out of control and #Ferguson took over the Web as the town became a virtual police state and issues of racism and police brutality were debated.
Needing something happier to focus on, we passed around this video of the most grateful kid ever getting a tablet for his birthday after being punked (and yet still grateful) with a chopping board.
Video of pro football player Ray Rice assaulting his wife got the social hate flowing, but not entirely at him. As people questioned his wife for not leaving, former domestic abuse victim Beverly Gooden answered with #WhyIStayed. Other women chimed in reminding the world yet again that not everything is as simple as it may seem to those who haven’t experienced it.
As the first laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola was diagnosed in Texas, we remembered the other meaning of the word “viral,” and fear, rhetoric, and misinformation spread like… well, a virus. A month later a man joking about having Ebola was removed from a plane while passengers filmed the incident on their smartphones.
Nude pics of celebrities leaked via a security flaw in iCloud on August 31 continued to be shared online, but love for Jennifer Lawrence, who called the leak a sex crime, seemed to curb much of the victim-blaming, as if people suddenly realized celebrities are actually people.
Arrow star Stephen Amell set a fundraising record for the F**k Cancer campaign, restoring a bit of our faith in humanity after another rough month.
The mixed reactions to Rob Bliss’ catcalling video showed us just how far we still have to go when it comes to sexual harassment in daily life.
The Serial podcast premiered.
“They crave that mineral” became a thing.
The Walking Dead broke our hearts by [SPOILER ALERT!] killing a beloved character. Adding insult to injury, the show’s Facebook page spoiled West Coast fans before the episode aired in Pacific Time.
Taylor Swift released her new album early making her fans freak out. Shortly thereafter she removed her entire catalog from music-sharing site Spotify, making everyone else freak out.
Kim Kardashian attempted to break the Internet with revealing photos from a new Paper shoot of her bodacious booty.
Bill Cosby’s meme generator turned out to be a very, very bad move.
Following a hostage situation with a Muslim extremist connection at a café in Sydney, Australia, fear of backlash against Muslims prompted #IllRideWithYou declarations as a sign of solidarity.
#CrimingWhileWhite was a response to the lack of indictment of the police officer responsible for the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City.
A massive, and mysterious hack of Sony threatened theaters planning to take part in the Christmas release of the new Seth Rogen/James Franco flick, The Interview. North Korea was thought to be responsible for the hack, but that may have been premature. Either way, Sony got the last laugh earning $15 million over three days with an online release, making The Interview the highest-grossing online release of all time.
And of course, we were all forced to endure endless posts about that pesky Elf on the Shelf.
In addition to all of the above (and more), social media provided us with opportunities to connect with friends and family, take part in milestones from afar, and anytime it got to be too much we could just reach for the “unfollow” button easily enough.
As we enter 2015, let’s hope the lessons of this past year stay with us and inform new levels of compassion, humor, and determination to bring us all together as global citizens, connected by images, videos and hashtags. I’ll raise a glass to that.
Which of your favorite standout social moments did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
HEADER IMAGE CREDIT: WALTER WILHELM
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