Two days ago this video was posted on Youtube showing a man coming out as gay to his mum. He had hidden a camera in his kitchen, and waited for her to return home. Once the conversation was finished, he uploaded the video.
It reminded me of another video posted by an American soldier, who came out to his father over the phone. It is hard not to be moved by such a public display of a very private moment. Sharing something so intimate is a brave thing to do.
But social media makes sharing such private events easier. No need to see the people you are communicating with, no need to even talk to them. Yet despite the remote nature of this communication, its power is clear. In just 5 months, the video has been viewed more than 5.5 million times. That works out as one view every two seconds. How many TV shows, with their large budgets, and intense advertising campaigns would be happy with ratings like that? Quite a few I would say.
It is not an exaggeration to say that stories of hope and empowerment like this one can save lives. The spate of suicides amongst LGBT teens in North America recently is a tragic reminder of the torment many youngsters face. Social media has already been used by young people to cry for help. Jamie Hubley, a 15 year old from Ottawa, took his own life after posting a farewell message his tumblr page.
But how many young people, struggling with the burden of concealing similar secrets, took comfort, and confidence from the video of the American soldier? Just five or six years ago, such a video would not have been possible. To enter the homes of strangers from around the world, from the comfort of your own bedroom, would not have been possible in the way it is today. To give hope to, and share empathy with, countless individuals who you will never meet, yet influence so profoundly, just was not possible.
This is the power of social media.