We have a pretty cool intern at work, and her name is Stephanie. She’s graduating from Saint Louis University this semester and is geeking out about her senior project, which is taking a look at how St. Louis is perceived on social media versus real life. She is comparing attitudes from differing demographics about how they see the city: the lifers, the transplants, those who have visited, and those who have never stepped foot here. So she asked me as a budding social media professional (and transplant) in how I perceived good ol’ #STL.
I started to give my answer but I was curious about something. I asked her, “Do you think it’s a good or a bad thing if the opinions don’t match up? So if the lifers say this city sucks (which is surprisingly common) and social media says the city is awesome, what do you think about that?”
She thought about it, and said she thought it would be bad. It would be bad to misrepresent ourselves and create this euphemistic view when the substance isn’t there in the first place. Why market yourself as a gourmet burger house when you’re serving pink slime? And that is a very valid point.
But I told her to watch this TED talk about how Edi Rama, the former mayor of Tirana the capital of Algeria, revolutionized the attitudes and quality of living in his city, starting with a paintbrush:
If you’re not into sitting through the 15 minute video, here are the highlights. 1) His city was drab and his citizen’s attitudes weren’t good. 2) He starting painting buildings beautiful and bright colors which invigorated pride in Tirana. 3) He demolished illegal buildings and made way for greater public spaces and planted over 15,000 trees & bushes. 4) 63% of the people polled liked the bright paint, and of the 37% that didn’t like it, 50% wanted it to still continue. 5) People were happier to live there, and crime went down because the people felt more ownership.
So I pointed out the video because of this: St. Louis is a blank canvas at this point. And when it comes to social involvement and social change, social media is a fantastic starting point. Anyone can have access to the microphone to start advertising their ideas and their feelings about where we can go from here–and the more positive buzz, the more positive feelings people will have. The most recent project that has been so exciting is RallySTL, the crowd-sourced and crowd-funded project hub where people can submit and vote on ideas to revitalize St. Louis. And social media is a huge part of this initiative.
Stephanie agreed and understood my perspective. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t say “I have an idea, I guess.” He vocalized a dream, and today I know a lot of those dreamers voice their opinions on these great platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, & WordPress.
If local social media is painting a picture of St. Louis that isn’t a reality yet, so be it. Because I feel rumblings under our feet of the change that is coming, and has already arrived. I know that appreciating what you have and a desire to be better can be the inspiring first step toward making us better people, a better city, and a better society.
So everyone grab a paintbrush.
I mentioned RallySTL, but who else is championing change for St. Louis and using social media? Leave it in the comments.