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The damage one can inflict in 140 characters

If you’re a fan of Jimmy Kimmel, you’ve probably seen his segment where celebrities read mean tweets about themselves on his talk show. With celebrities being used to the limelight, we might find ourselves a bit more accepting of the situation and find it more funny than if it were non-celebrities, but nevertheless these tweets are still mean. The idea is interesting as it puts a spotlight on those who’ve written the unkind tweets so that they can literally face what they’ve done and maybe even feel a bit of remorse.

A Canadian advocacy group “Raising the Roof” used the same concept but instead had homeless people read mean tweets about themselves. Watch the video up above.

One tweet says: "If home is where the heart is, are homeless people heartless?”

What does that even mean? Never mind the fact that it’s completely ignorant and clearly the tweeter has no idea what homeless people actually experience. The tweeter probably doesn’t even have the slightest inkling what homelessness is; that there are so many different levels of homelessness or whether one is experiencing longitudinal or situational homelessness. Below are a few numbers and facts about homelessness in the US– the numbers are higher than one might think.

  • More than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year. (That’s MILLIONS if you didn’t catch that.)

  • 35% of the homeless population are families with children, also the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

  • 23% are U.S. military veterans.

  • 25% are children under the age of 18 years.

More likely than not, homeless people have paying jobs, according to a data report in 1996. It’s not laziness, a stereotype too often associated with the homeless, that keeps people homeless but rather specific circumstances. This video not only shows the ignorance of the tweeters but also of the danger of perpetuated stereotypes and misconceptions that need to be stopped.

Using this concept to help end stereotypes, take action by helping to promote the video and spread the message by using the #HumansForHumans hashtag (started by the organisation). If you click the link in the hashtag, it will lead you to the much needed and heart wrenching responses that homeless people have to these tweets.

And… big shoutout to Canada right now! Another Canadian organisation, the Canadian Safe School Network (along with an advertising agency John St.) used the same model but had children read mean tweets, acutely highlighting the dangers of cyberbullying, especially among teenagers. Watch here.

Ultimately, we need to be careful what we say on the internet; we can learn from Monica Lewinsky (check out that article!). It can be easy to forget that there is a face behind that mean tweet. We’re all humans with feelings so let’s remember to never do to your neighbour what you wouldn’t do to yourself. To both Canadian organisations, I say, lesson learned. I hope we as global citizens can continue to use social media for good; it’s meant as a tool and not as a weapon.