by Michael Layne

ConversationprismThese are exceptional and, often, bewildering times, as social media encircle our virtual globe.

We have the leaders of ISIS, whose thievery and butchery masquerade as political causes, exploiting social media and video to shock and taunt the world, while recruiting followers among the world’s disenfranchised. ISIS is pursuing a  cruel agenda of hatred and destruction, the burning of mosques, the slaughter of those who share a territory — including women and children.

The group horrified the world when it released video of a masked ISIS member beheading 40-year-old American journalist James Foley, and two weeks later, 31-year-old freelance journalist Steven Sotloff. The only transgression of these two men was that they worked, tragically until their deaths, at exposing the truth. For that they were brutally murdered, and the video footage of their deaths was shared via social media with their grieving families, and with those of us in the world who feel nothing but deep sadness and sympathy for them.

There is clearly evil in this world, and it’s on display on social media.

But simultaneously, social media can be a force for good, spreading far and wide loving kindness and empathy for all of mankind, as we are witnessing with the wildly viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Spurred on by the example of others, participants have raised in excess of $100 million toward research to quell the ravages of this terribly disabling disease. The only motives for Ice Bucket Challenge participants are love, sympathy and hope for a better world.

The participants have agreed to share and give to not only people they know who have been stricken with ALS, but to complete strangers. Those who took the challenge didn’t care where those strangers might live. They don’t care how old they are, what their race is, what their religion is, or what their political leanings are. They just know that people are suffering and in need of support, comfort, and ultimately a cure.

What are we to make of this dichotomy in the use and power of today’s instant, participatory communications? Evil has always existed in this world—and always will. We can only hope that the cruel manipulation of media backfires on its evil progenitors as often as possible.

Regardless, I choose to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind and doing whatever we can, each in our own way, to leave the world a better place than when we were welcomed into it. In that pursuit, social media has much to offer.