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The Biggest #SocialMedia Stories of 2015

We are officially crossing the threshold into the second half of whatever the hell you call this decade (the teens? The ten-tacles? I don't know), and what a crazy 5 years it's been. For the moment though, let's just focus on 2015, because it's been an interesting one. Social media has, seemingly, developed more in the past year than ever before, as well as becoming something of a conduit for all the biggest news stories, so it being the end of the year, we figured we'd list them.

For a story to make this list, social media doesn't need to have been the subject, it just needs to have been an intrinsic part of the narrative, rather than just something that trended heavily. Every big story is heavily shared these days, regardless of actual relevance to social media. Anyway, let's get on with it, shall we?

The Dress

Starting on a lighter note, one of the most polarising stories of this year was about a dress that turned up on Tumblr and seemingly refused to decide whether it was white and gold or black and blue. We still don't have a definitive answer. Scientists have offered explanations ranging from perceptions of colour to light changes to other external stimuli, but the fact remains that you can spend long enough looking at the dress to know, beyond any doubt, that it's white and gold, only to check back 5 minutes later and find that it's turned black and blue again. The response was so massive that sales of the dress itself surged, an anti-domestic violence campaign was spawned and the image was shared millions of times. Supposedly a scientific paper on the phenomenon is currently in the works, slated for a July 2016 publish.

The Nepal Earthquake

The Mirror
Every natural disaster, be it a hurricane, tornado, tsunami or giant spider outbreak gets a fair amount of social media attention. Until recently all it really amounted to was people finding some way of reacting which just drew attention onto themselves. After Nepal was struck by a 7.8 earthquake on the 25th of April though, everything changed. Facebook introduced the 'marking safe' tool for the first time, enabling people in the area to assure their friends and family that they were alright, and a major relief and aid operation was run through Twitter. Since then, numerous disasters have been greatly aided by similar initiatives and they've become more sophisticated as the year has progressed.

Black Lives Matter

If you're being finickity, you could argue that Black Lives Matter really dates back hundreds of years, but the term and the subsequent campaign only came about in 2015. From Freddie Gray to Sandra Bland to Michael Brown to Eric Garner, more and more anger against the vile mistreatment of the African American community has mounted, and through Twitter, the Black Lives Matter movement was born. Far from being the ephemeral product of any one protest or demonstration, it's an ongoing, growing community with significant political sway and public influence. 

The most galvanising moment this year came shortly after the Charleston shooting, which claimed the lives of nine churchgoers at the hands of a murderer who was thought to have been motivated by white supremacist machinations. Black Lives Matter was able to distinguish itself from the looting and violence emanating from small groups within many of the rights protests throughout the year and become an established force for equal rights, and Twitter had a big hand in helping it get there. 

The Pluto Flyby

NASA have had a bumper year as far as promotion is concerned. Their Twitter and Facebook pages have surged in popularity, and their decision to add 6k videos to their YouTube feed was met with a lot of praise. The fact remains though that actual space missions were few and far between. The most significant one, by far and away, was the Pluto flyby. In July, the New Horizon craft finished a 3 billion mile voyage to our solar system's resident celestial dwarf. NASA went absolutely all out with the social media promotion on this one, from early access Instagram images to Reddit AMAs to Twitter queries, the whole thing was a phenomenal success, boosting the story to one of the year's top trenders and netting NASA thousands of new followers. Yeah science!

Love Wins

In 2015, three nations officially legalised same sex marriage. First Luxembourg, then the United States and finally Ireland. Whilst the US one got the most attention, the Irish one was impacted the most by social media, as a huge slew of campaigns were rolled out in the run up to the referendum across all platform. In all cases though, the post-result celebration was massive, with Facebook getting particularly heavily involved with their rainbow flag initiative, the first of its kind, but far from the last. It was easier than ever before for people from all walks of life to stand together and register their support, as well as brands, and the whole sensation helped the gay community massively, far beyond just adding 3 more countries to the marriage approved list. 

Refugees Welcome

The influx of refugees moving from Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere into the west is an ongoing concern. Every country seems to have their own answer, but with the ongoing storm of turmoil raging in Syria has resulted in one of the largest refugee crises in human history. Social media has enabled the public to voice their disagreements with governments more than ever before, and despite an overwhelming amount of media sources speaking out against letting Syrian refugees into Europe, and many governments floundering on the issue, the public were overwhelmingly supportive of letting them through. 

On Twitter, millions celebrated the arrival of Syrians into Germany and vigils were organised worldwide, whilst Facebook was used to organise voyage down to border choke points to hand out warm clothing, food and blankets. The whole thing was a triumph of compassion against an otherwise utterly repugnant propagation of racist territoriality, demonstrating the power of public galvanization and the growing impotence of the biased print media.

I Stand With Ahmed

It might seem ridiculous that such a seemingly small scale story would make it this far, but the bizarre chain of events which unfolded as a result of Ahmed Mohammed bringing one of his home projects into school with him. His arrest, and the reaction which stemmed from it raised a lot of questions about racial profiling, and attracted the attention of many prominent figures, most of them keen to promote science and racial equality. Others were somewhat more disparaging, even after Ahmed was cleared, accusations continued to fly around about him having simply reconstructed an existing clock and passing it off as his own. 

Further still, some even suggested that he deliberately brought something resembling a bomb into school in order to cause a stir, gain international acclaim and reap the benefits. I'm just going to get into opinionated territory here and flatly state that that's utterly ridiculous. In any case, regardless of the clock's authenticity, science was what won out.

Pray for Paris

Je Suis Charlie somewhat falls beneath this banner as well, since both of them garnered similar responses. This makes the list not because of the widespread social media reaction, but because it fundamentally changed the way social media responses are now regarded. Rather than a universal outpouring of grief, Twitter and Facebook became hotbeds for debate as many worked to stem the tide of resultant racial hate, debated the validity of bombing Syria and lambasted the Facebook team for demonstrating a western bias with their flag filter. The #PrayforParis movement came to underline the entire debate surrounding the Syria conflict and ISIS, as once again pubic opinion gained a massive signal boost, enabling it to become more forceful and influential. 

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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The Biggest #SocialMedia Stories of 2015 Reviewed by Unknown on Sunday, January 03, 2016 Rating: 5

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