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Time to reflect on the dumpster fire of 2020

2020 will forever be known as a year of change.

Whether or not the term “change” will be put in proper context by historians long after we’re gone, we’ll never know. So it’s up to us to add our own hot takes on this topsy-turvy time in hopes that they’ll properly cite our reflections later.

So as we hesitantly roll to Jan. 1, as we reflect on the dumpster fire of the last 10 months, do we see the glass as half full? Or is it half empty? Or can we just dump out the whole glass and forget this ever happened?

Of course, the answer is no. Our history is our shared history, and it’s full of an eclectic collection of perspectives.

As painful as they sometimes are, we celebrate some changes, honor others, but relive them together.

These days, we’re reliving them on social media.

We’ll remember some good changes and some bad. We’ll talk with friends later in later years about how bad life was, but because of changes brought on by 2020, how better life is today.

When something undoubtedly bad happens in the future, we’ll go to social media and post, “Yeah, but this isn’t nearly as bad as 2020.”

The truth is that with all the bad we’ve seen in 2020, there were many bright spots outshined by news of the pandemic, elections, economic struggles, social injustices and death.

Several social media giants are doing just that: looking back at our reactions to change in 2020.

For example, we shared in the commemoration of lost icons. From the death of Kobe Bryant, who according to Facebook was this year’s most-discussed moment, to the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, people turned to social media to collectively celebrate these lives.

We also posted about social issues.

“(Facebook’s) global community elevated important issues that mattered to them more than ever,” said Naomi Gleit, Facebook’s vice president for product and social impact. “In the three weeks following George Floyd’s death, conversations around Black Lives Matter tripled, with an average of 7.5 million mentions on Facebook every day.”

Additionally, the Blackout Coalition, a Facebook group devoted to supporting black businesses, saw an increase of 1.8 million members. It’s also the largest group among U.S. Facebook users.

We also used social media as a way to combat isolation brought on by COVID-19, finding new ways to connect. Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in Italy when lockdowns hit, as residents sang on balconies and broadcast under quarantine,” Gleit added. “Meanwhile in the U.S., Facebook Live viewership jumped 50 percent, with many tuning into fitness classes, connecting with artists and more.”

During COVID-19 , we’re clearly changing the way we celebrate community. Social media users rallied to shop local, ordering take-out, supporting neighborhood businesses. In the last three months, 47 million stories were posted to Instagram using the “Support Small Business” sticker.

With in-person religious services reduced during lockdowns, the holiday week between Passover and Easter saw the biggest jump for group video calls on Messenger and Facebook Live, according to Gleit.

As we go to social media to reflect, remember to balance the good with the bad from 2020. Do this so that when historians look back at our posts, they’ll put this year in perspective for those living through the next inevitable crisis.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is a professor of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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