Why does Sarah Millican’s ‘join in’ twitter campaign bring a much needed togetherness at Christmas?

For many people, whether they are users of twitter or not, twitter and social media as a whole can bring with it thoughts of trolling, horrible comments, and generally a bad vibe. However, social media, and especially twitter, should not be presumed to just be consumed with a whole lot of negativity; one huge example of how it isn’t is Sarah Millican’s ‘join in’ twitter campaign on Christmas Day, which brings a much needed togetherness on a day which is supposed to one of happiness and joy, or at least that is what society promotes it to be. But why does it do this? I will aim to explain why it does using my own encounter with the twitter hashtag.

What is ‘join in’?

For the want of a better word, I’m calling it a campaign, but it isn’t really, it is more of a collective togetherness that the comedian, Sarah Millican, started around the beginning of the decade. I first became aware of the ‘join in’ campaign about five years ago and thought it was a fantastic idea. I have previously written an article asking the question of why do people post horrible comments online and so it’s great to now write a positive piece about something happening on social media. My take on it is that the campaign was started to bring people together on Christmas Day by using the hashtag ‘#joinin’ to allow conversations to start between people who are alone and/or are feeling lonely. These conversations could be about anything; what people are eating, what they are watching on television, what people have been doing etc. The possibilities are endless, and I think this is social media in its truest form – bringing people together and talking about things.

Why is it needed?

The season of goodwill is all well and good for many, but for a lot of people it can be a very difficult time of year. As a frequent user of twitter, I know first-hand how many tweets are sent by people and organisations with the various phone numbers and information regarding helplines, and general statements and discussions surrounding mental health at Christmas and New Year. This is one of the good sides to social media – the way something as small as one tweet could give a person some information that may be vitally needed. It also allows for such information to be fed into the collective consciousness of the users who view it. Mental health is something that everyone may need help with at some point in their life, either personally or for someone else, and feeling part of something can be a big help in a different kind of way. For people who are physically alone, the #joinin campaign can provide company and something to focus on when it may be difficult to otherwise do so. But there are also many people who may feel alone, but could be surrounded by lots of friends and/or family.

Knowing that there are other people perhaps feeling like they want to join in the conversation for their own reasons is something I wondered about when I first started joining in. At first, I just watched the twitter conversations, but then I thought, why don’t I add something to it? So in 2017 I remember tweeting a question asking which film people would be watching (from the main channels); ‘The Lion King’ or ‘Frozen’? I am a 90s child so it was for me, of course, The Lion King, but I did actually end up watching a bit of ‘Frozen’! On Christmas Day last year it was about which Quality Street chocolate I liked. Small things I know, but I was just one of the many thousands joining in the various conversations that using the hashtag enabled people to view and be part of.

What are the benefits of it?

These are just a couple of examples from what I have encountered when joining in, but I think just by people knowing they are not alone, at least online, can have huge benefits. Whether it’s by talking through your feelings or just getting other people’s opinions on things, it can make the day a lot more fun and easier to handle. I think in a world where mental health is finally becoming recognised more in the everyday consciousness of many people within society, the ‘join in’ collectiveness is something that can be smiled at and viewed as being another part of helping everyone be happier, or at least feeling less down, for whatever reason they have for becoming involved in it.

What can we learn from it?

It is campaigns like this that shows how social media doesn’t have to be seen as something that is full of derogatory comments and nastiness between faceless usernames shielded by a screen, but it can actually be used for the greater good. I think this also helps by showing people that it is OK to admit to how you’re feeling. There is still a long way to go with mental health awareness, but this is one new example of how people are becoming aware of what other people may be feeling, and allowing an outlet to be made for people to potentially know that they are not the only ones who may need to talk or just feel part of something. There are many different ways, of course, for someone to talk about their feelings, but not everyone knows about them or perhaps even realises they need to do so. Social media, and twitter in particular, may be the first time this is uncovered. In that sense, I think it is a much needed element, and perhaps only the start of such a collective type of conversation carried out using social media.

The ‘join in’ hashtag brings with it a reason for people to talk to other users at a potentially isolating time of year when there is a huge expectation to be happy, to do certain things, and to feel the happiness that everyone else appears to, on the surface at least. But the hashtag allows every twitter user who sees it to remember that not everyone is the same, and some people will not be sharing in this joy. By bringing people together just by putting #joinin in a tweet, a collective togetherness is formed, which I am sure was something that many people didn’t think was possible by using social media. However, I hope it continues to have a positive impact for many years to come because it is very much needed and has, in my opinion, become a vital online outlet.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach