Beyond the selfie: Social media that resonated in 2014

Microsoft founder Bill Gates answers the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge .(YouTube)

Social media meant more than selfies on Instagram and cat videos on YouTube in 2014. Those platforms — along with Facebook, Twitter and others — gave rise to innovative campaigns, some calling for social justice and some for help for others.

These five social-media events from 2014 show the power of social media to reach far and give citizens in America and around the world their say.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease that affects 450,000 people worldwide and has no known cure. In June, the ALS Association launched the Ice Bucket Challenge, in which participants dumped a cold bucket of water over their own heads, pledged a donation to ALS and challenged others by name to do the same. The campaign outperformed all expectations, with more than 2.4 million videos on Facebook and $220 million raised for research.


Close-up of Jared Leto (Courtesy photo)
Actor/musician Jared Leto joined other male celebrities in the #HeforShe campaign. (Courtesy photo)

When “Harry Potter” star Emma Watson spoke at the United Nations to promote the #HeForShe campaign, her message to men and boys was simple: Men gain when women have equal opportunity. Male celebrities like actors Russell Crowe, Kiefer Sutherland and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and actor/musician Jared Leto have signed on to the U.N.-sponsored campaign.


Angger Prawitasari holding up sign (Courtesy of Twitter user @anggerwitasari)
Angger Prawitasari responds to the #IllRidewithYou hashtag on Twitter. (Courtesy of Twitter user @anggerwitasari)

In December 2014, a standoff with a gunman who held 18 hostages and identified himself as a Muslim led to three deaths and multiple injuries in Sydney, Australia. In the wake of the incident, Muslims in Sydney expressed their fear of using public transportation while wearing Islamic dress. Twitter users offered support by underscoring the lack of any real connection between the gunman and Muslims with the hashtag #IllRidewithYou. The hashtag expanded beyond Australia and was trending worldwide in support of religious tolerance.


Kevin Bacon crouching under table (YouTube)
Actor Kevin Bacon introduces his #ShakeEbolaOff video. (YouTube)

Looking to raise $1 million for Emergency USA’s Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, that group and End Ebola Now initiated their own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge. “Dancing plays a huge role in West African culture …” the group said in its announcement, “so what better way to spread awareness and raise funds than through dance?” Participants film themselves dancing, pledge money and call on other friends to do the same.

The Project for Awesome

Activists John and Hank Green organized the Project for Awesome, an online, nonprofit fundraising drive that invited participants to submit videos about their favorite charities and donate money. A 48-hour live stream of Internet celebrities generated nearly 100 tweets per minute with the hashtag #P4A. The project has so far received a thousand videos and raised $1.2 million for charity.