I was listening to BBC Newshour this morning and heard a fantastic broadcast that illustrates how compassionate the world can be as well as how social media can be the vehicle to turn that spark into a conflagration.
The story was about a young man named Jonny Benjamin (Twitter: @MrJonnyBenjamin), who suffers from schizoaffective disorder. On the 14th of January 2008, at around 10am, Mr Benjamin went to Waterloo Bridge contemplating suicide. His life was forever altered when a stranger offered to buy him coffee and spoke to him caringly, giving him hope. For Mr Benjamin it was that act that put him on the road to recovery. And now, Mr Benjamin wants to find this man, whom he has affectionately dubbed ‘Mike’.
I often express a complete bemusement at social media. After all, my brief foray into it was an abysmal failure. I have reckoned that it belongs in the hands of my staff, who are younger, hipper and much more tech-savvy. Many of our clients have heard me express my bafflement as to why anyone would be interested in such a barrage of details about someone’s private life.
And yet, listening to this story, even as stubborn a person as me had to admit that without social media, this man’s courageous story might never have been told. Rethink Mental Illness, an organisation in London that helps millions of people affected by mental illness, is championing Mr Benjamin’s plea, inviting its visitors to help ‘Find Mike’. And news outlets around the globe have also taken up Mr Benjamin’s cause.
In a world where social media often adds to the noise of an already cacophonous deluge, it is heart-warming and reassuring to be reminded that it can be the instrument to bring us back together, not just for witty banter and gossip, but to help others.
And perhaps that is the point of all this. That social media serves many different purposes, but like all tools, that purpose can be truly noble.