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Trolls need not apply. Is social media about to redeem itself and finally do some good?

Andrew Dickens
Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer on culture, society, politics, health and travel for major titles such as the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail and Empire.

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer on culture, society, politics, health and travel for major titles such as the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail and Empire.

Trolls need not apply. Is social media about to redeem itself and finally do some good?
Social media has become the world-changing tool it always promised to be, but sadly not in a good way. But is it about to redeem itself? The founders of a new platform called GoPoolit hope so.

When social media entered our lives in the late Nineties and early Noughties, it was a curious, quaint and gentle thing. A way of reconnecting with old school pals in a not-too-personal way, sharing music or discussing niche interests. It was, on the whole, a nice thing.

Then it got big. Really big. Facebook and Twitter big. And so it was assumed, or at least hoped, that this would equate to niceness on a similar scale. A way for the planet to share ideas, news, memories and amusing animal videos. It would bring us together in a universal love of sneezing pandas. 

That hope didn’t last long. 

Sure, the animal videos are still going strong and, every now and then, social media can do truly great things. It can do big things, too. Revolutions have been not just televised, but posted, shared and commented on.

But for the most part, even perpetual inhabitants of Twitter et al would admit that social media is now mostly a digital cesspit of echo chambers, hate and misinformation where people are so partisan that they argue about the ‘bias’ of the platform they’re arguing on and pretend to leave it for another platform where everyone agrees with them before coming back three hours later because they missed the arguing.

If he existed, the Devil would turn green with envy. 

But is that about to change? Is redemption coming to social media’s narrative arc? The founders of a new British start-up, GoPoolit, hope so.

GoPoolit is a social media platform that aims to turn users’ posts into cash for charities. These posts are not, however, your usual heart-string-pulling requests for funds. Instead, the idea is for people to post their usual social media fare, from pithy quips to elaborate videos and cutting memes, but use their popularity to harvest ‘micro-donations’. 

So, for example, I post a video in which I do a robot dance to a speech by Bernie Sanders. This garners 100,000 ‘likes’ on Twitter, TikTok or Facebook. (Look, this is my imaginary example, so I get to decide how popular it is.) On GoPoolit, however, I would attach a charity of my choice to the post and each endorsement would be a tiny donation of 1 to 10 pence or cents - decided by the endorser. 

Say I get an average 5p on my 100,000 likes, that’s a total of… *fetches calculator*... £5,000 in the coffers of the National Institute for the Hard of Thinking or whichever charity I’ve nominated. 

So all those casual clicks and shares you do each day can actually equate to more than feeding people’s need for validation. In fact, you might literally feed people. And, in these tight-belted times for most people, in which third-sector donations have suffered horribly, you’ll only see a few pennies fall off your bank balance.

“The original concept for social networks was to bring people together: to connect communities, causes, friends and families from around the world,’ says one of its founders, Matt Turner. ‘Over the last decade, that vision has been lost, and now inspires more conflict than collaboration.

“There are of course case studies that show the positives. While we’ve all had negative experiences on social media, we’ve all had positive ones too. This shows that, despite the toxic environment we now find ourselves in, there is still potential for a social media for the social good. We're determined to turn that vision into reality.”

Charities large and small are already heading to the site, which launches until 15 December, in their droves. But, the million-penny question is: Will it work? 

Well, there’s a chance. According to research by the Pew Center, around two-thirds of Americans believe social media platforms have a “mostly negative effect” on the US, with just a tenth think the effect is mostly positive. This leaves room for a place where people can do good with relatively little effort and cost, feel good by getting the best bits of social media, and, according to Turner, not have to suffer the tedium of resentful little hate-filled trolls who have decided to spend their limited time on Earth sucking the positivity out of life.

“We have three layers of content moderation,” he says. “Algorithmic, our own in-person team, and the non-profits themselves - who will be able to see every single post that they are nominated on and contact us immediately if there are any issues. The capacity for anonymised posting is very low as the site is geared towards micro-donations, which mean financial details will need to be inputted. GoPoolit is, and always will be, a social media for good.”

At the end of this mostly-crappy year, wouldn’t it be nice to think that we can summon up the spirit of Christmas or whatever you like to celebrate and do something that doesn’t suck? Make a few quid for a good cause simply by whacking up a photo of your dog wearing reindeer antlers, all while escaping the whinging and digging and general arseholery? Or perhaps even be there at the start of something world-changing?

Think. If enough people move to GoPoolit, celebrities (many of whom feed off attention) will follow, and their devout fans will come with them. And with those fans come billions of likes. And with those likes would come money for good causes. And with money that will come pressure on said celebrities to provide increasingly clickable content.

Beyoncé could literally end child poverty by videoing herself farting into an empty baked bean tin.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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