Can social media change peoples' lives?


Social media is all about connecting people. Whether you start out by simply talking to your mates on Facebook or Twitter, sooner or later, you'll be introduced to people you may not know or may not have come across were it not for the Internet.

Unheard in New York

'Unheard in New York' is an initiative which has recently taken this concept to the extreme. Were I to ask you which people would be most difficult to connect with through social media, it would be no surprise to me if you came up with the homeless - and this is exactly who the initiative is based around.

Homeless New YorkersThroughout February, four homeless New Yorkers were given their own prepaid mobile phones with a month of unlimited text messaging and a Twitter account. With this, they were able to communicate how they were feeling at any particular time, with the aim being that the initiative would raise awareness of homelessness whilst giving a sneak peak into the daily struggles and challenges which they face.

A successful use of Twitter?

The team behind the project comprised three interns from BBH advertising agency who were tasked with the challenge to 'do something good…famously'. Rosemary Melchoir, Robert Weeks and Willy Wang decided that 'doing something famously was just another way of saying 'make people listen' - to go big, to be heard and to make real change'. They hoped that the project would give people a better understanding of homelessness and inspire them to volunteer or donate to shelters in and around New York, and the wider community.

Of course, the initiative did attract a fair bit of attention, including a number of criticisms. Unfortunately, the project will end at the close of the month for the three interns, meaning the mobiles are to be returned and the homeless subjects will go back to their mobile-free, former lives. Questions arise as to whether this is the right thing to do.

What's the next step?

It would be nice to think the initiative made a real change for the individuals involved. We're constantly hearing how inspired individuals landed their dream jobs or turned their life around as a result of the Internet. Wouldn't it be a great ending if someone in New York was to give Danny (@putodanny), Derrick (@awitness2011), Albert (@albert814) or Carlos (@jessie550) a break?

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